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Title: Unexplored Spain
Author: Chapman, Abel, Buck, Walter J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Unexplored Spain" ***

produced from images available at The Internet Archive)

Every attempt has been made to replicate the original book as printed.
Some typographical errors have been corrected (a list follows the text).
No attempt has been made to correct or normalize the printed
accentuation or spelling of Spanish names or words. (etext transcriber's



=BIRD-LIFE OF THE BORDERS=. First Edition, 1889;
---- ----, Second Edition, 1907.

=WILD SPAIN=. (WITH W. J. B.) 1893.

=WILD NORWAY=. 1897.


























The undertaking of a sequel to _Wild Spain_, we are warned, is
dangerous. The implication gratifies, but the forecast alarms not.
Admittedly, in the first instance, we occupied a virgin field, and
naturally the almost boyish enthusiasm that characterised the earlier
book--and probably assured its success--has in some degree abated. But
it's not all gone yet; and any such lack is compensated by longer
experience (an aggregate, between us, of eighty years) of a land we
love, and the sounder appreciation that arises therefrom. Our own
resources, moreover, have been supplemented and reinforced by friends in
Spain who represent the fountain-heads of special knowledge in that

No foreigners could have enjoyed greater opportunity, and we have done
our best to exploit the advantage--so far, at least, as steady plodding
work will avail; for we have spent more than two years in analysing,
checking and sorting, selecting and eliminating from voluminous notes
accumulated during forty years. The concentrated result represents, we
are convinced, an accurate--though not, of course, a
complete--exposition of the wild-life of one of the wildest of European

No, for this book and its thoroughness neither doubt nor fear intrudes;
but we admit to being, in two respects, out of touch with modern
treatment of natural-history subjects. Possibly we are wrong in both;
but it has not yet been demonstrated, by Euclid or other, that a
minority even of two is necessarily so? Nature it is nowadays customary
to portray in somewhat lurid and sensational colours--presumably to
humour a "popular taste." Reflection might suggest that nothing in
Nature is, in fact, sensational, loud, or extravagant; but the lay
public possess no such technical training as would enable them to
discern the line where Nature stops and where fraud and "faking" begin.
At any rate we frequently read purring approval of what appears to us
meretricious imposture, and see writers lauded as constellations whom we
should condemn as charlatans. Beyond the Atlantic President Roosevelt
(as he then was) went bald-headed for the "Nature-fakers," and in
America the reader has been put upon his guard. If he still likes
"sensations"--well, that's what he likes. But he buys such fiction

In the illustration of wild-life our views are also, in some degree,
divergent from current ideas. Animal-photography has developed with such
giant strides and has taught us such valuable lessons (for which none
are more grateful than the Authors), that there is danger of coming to
regard it, not as a means to an end but as the actual end itself. While
photography promises uses the value of which it would be difficult to
exaggerate, yet it has defects and limitations which should not be
ignored. First as regards animals in motion; the camera sees too
quick--so infinitely quicker than the human eye that attitudes and
effects are portrayed which we do not, and cannot see. Witness a
photograph of the finish for the Derby. Galloping horses do not figure
so on the human retina--with all four legs jammed beneath the body like
a dead beetle. No doubt the camera exhibits an unseen phase in the
actual action and so reveals its process; but that phase is not what
mortals see. Similarly with birds in flight, the human eye only catches
the form during the instantaneous arrest of the wing at the end of each
stroke--in many cases not even so much as that. But the camera snaps the
whirling pinion at mid-stroke or at any intermediate point. The result
is altogether admirable as an exposition of the mechanical processes of
flight; but it fails as an illustration, inasmuch as it illustrates a
pose which Nature has expressly concealed from our view.

Secondly, in relation to still life. Here the camera is not only too
quick, but too faithful. A tiny ruffled plume, a feather caught up by
the breeze with the momentary shadow it casts, even an intrusive bough
or blade of grass--all are reproduced with such rigid faithfulness and
conspicuous effect that what are in fact merest minute details assume a
wholly false proportion, mislead the eye, and disguise the whole
picture. True, these things are actually there; but the human eye enjoys
a faculty (which the camera does not) of selecting its objective and
ignoring, or reducing to its correct relative value each extrinsic
detail; of looking, as it were, through obstacles and concentrating its
power upon the one main subject of study.

The portrayal of wildfowl presents a peculiar difficulty. This group
differs in two essential characters from the rest of the bird-world.
Though clad in feathers, yet those feathers are not "feathery." Rather
may they be described as a steely water-tight encasement, as distinct
from the covering, say of game-birds as mackintosh differs from satin.
Each plume possesses a compactness of web and firmness of texture that
combine to produce a rigidity, and this, it so happens, both in form and
colour. For in this group the colours, too, or patterns of colour, are
clean-cut, the contrasts strong and sharply defined. The plumage of
wild-fowl, in short, is characterised by lack of subdued tints and
half-tones. That is its beauty and its glory; but the fact presents a
stumbling-block to treatment, especially in colour.

The difficulty follows consequentially. Subjects of such character and
crude coloration defy accustomed methods. That is not the fault of the
artist; rather it reveals the limitations of Art. Just as in landscape
distance ever demands an "atmosphere" more or less obliterative of
distinctive detail afar (though such detail may be visible to
non-artistic eyesight miles away), so in birds of sharply contrasted
colouring the needed effect can only (it would appear) be attained by
processes of softening which are not, in fact, correct, and which ruin
the real picture as designed by Nature.

No wild bird (and wildfowl least of all) can be portrayed from captive
specimens--still less from bedraggled corpses selected in Leadenhall
market. In the latter every essential feature has disappeared. The
ruffled remains resemble the beauty of their originals only as a
dish-clout may recall some previous existence as a damask serviette.
Living captives at least give form; but that is all. The loss of
freedom, with all its contingent perils, involves the loss of character,
the pride of life, and of independence. Once remove the first essential
element--the sense of instant danger, with all that the stress and
exigencies of wild-life import--and with these there vanish vigilance,
carriage, sprightliness, dignity, sometimes even self-respect.

Not a man who has watched and studied wild beasts and wild birds in
their native haunts, glorified and ennobled by self-conscious aptitude
to prevail in the ceaseless "struggle for existence," but instantly
recognises with a pang the different demeanour of the same creatures in
captivity, albeit carefully tended in the best zoological gardens of the

       *       *       *       *       *

To Mr. Joseph Crawhall (cousin of one author) we and our readers are
indebted for a series of drawings that speak for themselves.

Further, we desire most heartily to thank H.R.H. the Duke of Orleans for
notes and photographs illustrative both of Baetican scenery and of the
wild camels of the marisma; also the many Spanish and Anglo-Spanish
friends whose assistance is specifically acknowledged, _passim_, in the

Should some slight slip or repetition have escaped the final revision,
may we crave indulgence of critics? 'Tis not care that lacks, but sheer
mnemonics. In a work of (we are told) 150,000 words the mass of
manuscript appals, and to detect every single error may well prove
beyond our power. We have lost, moreover, that guiding eye and
pilot-like touch on the helm that helped to steer our earlier venture
through the shoals and seething whirlpools that ever beset voyages into
the unknown.

A. C.

W. J. B.



CHAP.                                                         PAGE

      I. UNEXPLORED SPAIN: INTRODUCTORY                          1

     II.   "        "        "                  (_Continued_)   17

         AMBASSADOR AT MADRID)                                  30

         AND RED DEER                                           35


     VI.   "        "        " WILD-BOAR                        70

         NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL ROCÍO                               82

   VIII. THE MARISMAS OF GUADALQUIVIR                           88

     IX. WILDFOWL-SHOOTING IN THE MARISMAS                     105

         AND HABITS                                            114

     XI. WILD-GEESE ON THE SAND-HILLS                          125


   XIII. THE SPANISH IBEX                                      139

    XIV. SIERRA MORÉNA: IBEX                                   147

     XV.    "        " RED DEER AND BOAR                       158

    XVI. PERNALES                                              174

   XVII. LA MANCHA                                             183

  XVIII. THE SPANISH BULL-FIGHT                                192

    XIX. THE SPANISH FIGHTING-BULL                             200

     XX. SIERRA DE GRÉDOS                                      208

    XXI.   "        " : IBEX-HUNTING                           216


         INHABIT THEM                                          234

   XXIV. THE GREAT BUSTARD                                     242

    XXV.   "        "                           (_Continued_)  256

   XXVI. FLAMINGOES                                            265

  XXVII. WILD CAMELS                                           275

 XXVIII. AFTER CHAMOIS IN THE ASTURIAS                         283

   XXIX. HIGHLANDS OF ASTURIAS                                 294

    XXX. THE SIERRA NEVÁDA                                     301

   XXXI.   "        "                           (_Continued_)  311

  XXXII. VALENCIA                                              321

 XXXIII. SMALL-GAME SHOOTING IN SPAIN                          328



  XXXVI.   "        "        "        "         (_Continued_)  360

         STALKING-HORSE                                        371

         NORTHERN MIGRATION                                    376

  XXXIX. SPRING-TIME IN THE MARISMAS                           381

     XL. SKETCHES OF SPANISH BIRD-LIFE                         392

         APPENDIX                                              407

         INDEX                                                 413

List of Plates

H.M. KING ALFONSO XIII. SPEARING A BOAR              _Frontispiece_

                                                       FACING PAGE

TYPICAL LANDSCAPE IN COTO DOÑANA                                30


RED DEER IN DOÑANA. From a Drawing by Joseph Crawhall           36

  (3) A CORRAL, OR PINEWOOD ENCLOSED BY SAND                    40

RED DEER. From Drawings by Joseph Crawhall                      46

INSPIRING MOMENTS                                               51

GUNNING-PUNT IN THE MARISMA                                     90

WILD-GOOSE SHOOTING ON THE SAND-HILLS                           90


STANCHEON-GUN IN THE MARISMA--DAWN                             106

WILD-GEESE IN THE MARISMA                                      122

SPANISH IBEX IN SIERRA DE GRÉDOS                               140

HEADS OF SPANISH IBEX                                          152

RED-DEER HEADS, SIERRA MORÉNA                                  156

WOLF SHOT IN SIERRA MORÉNA, MARCH 1909                         158

HUNTSMAN WITH CARACOLA, SIERRA MORÉNA                          158

PACK OF PODENCOS, SIERRA MORÉNA                                158

WILD-BOAR, WEIGHING 200 LBS.                                   162

THE RECORD HEAD (RED DEER), SIERRA MORÉNA                      162

RED DEER. From Drawings by Joseph Crawhall                     166

RED DEER. From Drawings by Joseph Crawhall                     170

WILD-BOAR. From Drawings by Joseph Crawhall                    170

RED-DEER HEADS, SIERRA MORÉNA                                  172

BULL-FIGHTING. From a Drawing by Joseph Crawhall               194

BULL-FIGHTING. From a Drawing by Joseph Crawhall               198

AFTER THE STROKE. From a Drawing by Joseph Crawhall            202

SCENES IN SIERRA DE GRÉDOS                                     212

"AT THE APEX OF ALL THE SPAINS"                                216


GREAT BUSTARD                                                  250

SLENDER-BILLED CURLEW                                          250

GREAT BUSTARD "SHOWING OFF"                                    260

FLAMINGOES ON THEIR NESTS                                      272

WILD CAMELS                                                    276

CAPTURING A WILD CAMEL IN THE MARISMA                          280

THE HOME OF THE CHAMOIS                                        286

PEAKS OF SIERRA NEVÁDA                                         306

NEST OF GRIFFON                                                306

ROYAL SHOOTING AT THE PARDO, NEAR MADRID                       334

Illustrations in the Text


Lammergeyer (_Gypaëtus barbatus_)                                3

Woodchat Shrike (_Lanius pomeranus_)                             7

Griffon Vulture (_Gyps fulvus_)                                  9

Wooden Plough-share                                             12

Cetti's Warbler (_Sylvia cettii_)                               14

Dartford Warbler (_Sylvia undata_)                              16

Fantail Warbler (_Cisticola cursitans_)                         17

Rock-Thrush (_Petrocincla saxatilis_)                           18

A Village _Posada_                                              20

Serin (_Serinus hortulanus_)                                    23

Bonelli's Eagle (_Aquila bonellii_)                             26

Black Vulture (_Vultur monachus_)                               27

White-Faced Duck (_Erismatura leucocephala_)                    28

Spanish Imperial Eagle                                          31

Spanish Lynx                                                    33

Greenshank (_Totanus canescens_)                                34

Sketch-Map of Delta of Guadalquivir                             35

Marsh-Harrier (_Circus aeruginosus_)                            38

"Silent Songsters"                                              39

Blackstart (_Ruticilla titys_)                                  39

Great Spotted Cuckoo (_Oxylophus glandarius_)                   41

"Globe-Spanners"                                                42

"Confidence"                                                    43

Abnormal Cast Antler                                            44

Egret                                                           45

"Suspicion"                                                     49

Altabaca (_Scrofularia_)                                        51

Tomillo de Arena                                                51

"What's This?"                                                  52

Antlers                                                         56

Stag "taking the Wind"                                          57

_Sylvia melanocephala_                                          60

Reed-Climbers                                                   61

Great Grey Shrike (_Lanius meridionalis_)                       62

Spanish Green Woodpecker (_Gecinus sharpei_)                    63

Tarantula                                                       64

Stag--as he fell                                                67

Hoopoes at Jerez, March 19, 1910                                69

"Room for Two"                                                  71

Wild-Boar--at bay                                               73

Wild-Boar--"Bolted past"                                        79

Wild-Boar                                                       81

Praying Mantis                                                  87

Avocet                                                          88

Samphire                                                        90

Greylag Geese                                                   92

White-Eyed Pochard (_Fuligula nyroca_)                          94

"Flamingoes over"                                               95

Pochard (_Fuligula ferina_)                                     96

Flight of Flamingoes                                            97

Wild-Geese alighting                                            98

Wildfowl in the Marisma                                        101

Flamingoes                                                     102

Stilt                                                          105

Godwits                                                        113

Root of Spear-Grass                                            115

System of driving Wild-Geese                                   117

Shelters for driving Wild-Geese                                118

Godwits                                                        124

Wild-Geese alighting on Sand-Hills                             129

Wild-Geese                                                     133

Godwits                                                        134

Sketch-Map of the _Nucléo Central_ of Grédos                   141

Grey Shrike                                                    162

Azure-Winged Magpie                                            163

Sardinian Warbler                                              164

Griffon Vulture                                                166

Pair of Antlers                                                167

Stag--"picking his way up a Rock-Staircase"                    168

"The Hart bounced, full-broadside, over the Pass"              169

Pernales                                                       175

Sparrow-Owls (Athene noctua) and Moths                         182

Hoopoes                                                        183

Woodchat Shrike and its "Shambles"                             184

Desert-loving Wheatears                                        185

Red-crested Pochard (_Fuligula rufila_)                        186

Red-crested Pochards                                           190

"Minor Game"                                                   210

Southern Grey Shrike                                           212

Griffon Vulture and Nest                                       215

"The Way of an Eagle in the Air" (_Lammergeyer_)               218

Black Vulture (_Vultur monachus_)                              222

Roller (_Coracias garrula_)                                    226

Trujillo                                                       227

"Scavengers"                                                   228

Wolf-proof Dog-Collar                                          231

Woodlark                                                       232

Sketch-Map of Las Hurdes                                       234

White Wagtail                                                  238

Wolf-proof Sheepfold                                           239

The Great Bustard                                              243

Well on Andalucian Plain                                       244

Calandra Lark                                                  246

Spanish Thistle and Stonechat                                  248

Bustards--"Swerve aside"                                       252

Bustards passing full broadside                                254

Imperial Eagle--"Hurtling through Space"                       258

Draw-Well with Cross-Bar                                       259

"_Hechando la Rueda_"                                          260

Tail-Feathers of Great Bustard                                 261

Little Bustard                                                 263

Stilts in the Marisma                                          265

Flamingoes                                                     266

Stilts disturbed at Nesting-Place                              268

Flamingoes and their Nests                                     269

Flight of Flamingoes                                         270-1

Head of Flamingo                                               273

Little Gull and Tern                                           274

Flamingoes                                                     277

"The Camels a-coming"                                          281

Chamois                                                        283

A Chamois Drive--Picos de Europa                               288

Hoopoe                                                         293

Lammergeyer (_Gypaëtus barbatus_)                              303

"Unemployed": Bee-eaters on a Wet Morning                      311

Woodlark (_Alauda arborea_)                                    313

Lammergeyer                                                    314

Soaring Vulture                                                315

Golden Eagle Hunting                                           317

Rock-Thrush                                                    318

Spanish Sparrow                                                320

Imperial Eagle Passing Overhead                                342

Pinsápo Pine (_Abies pinsapo_)                                 347

Rock-Bunting (_Emberiza cia_)                                  348

Pinsápo Pines                                                  350

Crossbill                                                      351

Lammergeyer Overhead                                           353

Golden Eagle Hunting                                           354

Vultures                                                       356

Lammergeyer entering Eyrie                                     358

Lammergeyer                                                    361

Griffon Vultures                                               368

Reed-Bunting                                                   378

Grey Plover                                                    381

Head of Crested Coot                                           384

Avocets Feeding                                                385

White-Faced Duck (_Erismatura leucocephala_)                   387

Purple Heron (_Ardea purpurea_)                                389

Grey Plovers                                                   390

Orphean Warbler                                                391

Savi's Warbler (_Sylvia savii_)                                393

Unknown Insect                                                 394

Bonelli's Eagles                                               395

Great Spotted Cuckoo (_Oxylophus glandarius_)                  400

Crossbills (_Loxia curvirostra_)                               402




The Spain that we love and of which we write is not the Spain of tourist
or globe-trotter. These hold main routes, the highways from city to
city; few so much as venture upon the bye-ways. Our Spain begins where
bye-ways end. We write of her pathless solitudes, of desolate steppe and
prairie, of marsh and mountain-land--of her majestic sierras, some
well-nigh inaccessible, and, in many an instance, untrodden by British
foot save our own. Lonely scenes these, yet glorified by primeval beauty
and wealth of wild-life. As naturalists--that is, merely as born lovers
of all that is wild, and big, and pristine--we thank the guiding destiny
that early directed our steps towards a land that is probably the
wildest and certainly the least known of all in Europe--a land worthy of
better cicerones than ourselves.

Do not let us appear to disparage the other Spain. The tourist enjoys
another land overflowing with historic and artistic interest--with
memorials of mediæval romance, and of stirring times when wave after
wave of successive conquest swept the Peninsula. Such subjects, however,
fall wholly outside the province of this book: nor do they lack
historians a thousand-fold better qualified to tell their tale.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first cause that differentiates Spain from other European countries
of equal area is her high general elevation. This fact must jump to the
eye of every observant traveller who books his seat by the Sûd-express
to the Mediterranean. Better still, for our purpose, let him commence
his journey, say at the Tweed. From Berwick southwards through the heart
of England to London: from London to Paris, and right across France--all
the way he traverses low-lying levels; fat pastures, fertile and tilled
to the last acre. His aneroid tells him he has seldom risen above
sea-level by more than a few hundred feet; and never once has his train
passed through mountains--hardly even through hills; he can scarce be
said to have had a real mountain within the range of his vision in all
these 1200 miles.

Now he crosses the Bidassoa ... the whole world changes! At once his
train plunges into interminable Pyrenees, and ere it clears these, he
has ascended to a permanent highland level--a tawny treeless steppe that
averages 2000-feet altitude, and sometimes approaches 3000, traversed by
range after range of rugged mountains that arise all around him to four,
five, or six thousand feet. Railways, moreover, avoid mountains (so far
as they can). Our traveller, therefore, must bear in mind that what he
actually sees is but the mildest and tamest version of Spanish sierras.
There are bits here and there that he may have thought anything but
tame--only tame by comparison with those grander scenes to which we
propose guiding him.

For the next 500 miles he never quits that austere highland altitude nor
ever quite loses sight of jagged peaks that pierce the skies--peaks of
that hoary cinder-grey that shows up almost white against an azure
background. Never does he descend till, after leaving behind him three
kingdoms--Arragon, Navarre, and Castile--his train plunges through the
Sierra Moréna, down the gorges of Despeñaperros, and at length on the
third day enters upon the smiling lowlands of Andalucia. Here the
aneroid rises once more to rational readings, and fertile _vegas_ spread
away to the horizon. But our traveller is not even now quite clear of
mountains. Whether he be booked to Malaga or to Algeciras, he will
presently find himself enveloped once more amidst some fairly stupendous
rocks--the Gaëtánes or Serranía de Ronda respectively.

Spain is, in fact, largely an elevated table-land, 400 miles square, and
traversed by four main mountain-ranges, all (like her great rivers)
running east and west. The only considerable areas of lowland are found
in Andalucia and Valencia.

Naturally such physical features result in marked variations of climate
and scene, which in turn react upon their productions and denizens,
whether human or of savage breed. We take three examples.


LAMMERGEYER (_Gypaëtus barbatus_)

Whose home is in the wildest Sierras--a weird dragon-like bird-form;
expanse, 9 feet.

[Formerly reputed to carry off _babies_ to its eyrie.]]

The central table-lands, subject all summer to solar rays that burn, in
winter shelterless from biting blasts off snow-clad sierras, present
precisely that landscape of desperate desolation that always results
from a maximum of sunshine combined with a minimum of rainfall. A
desiccated downland, khaki-colour or calcareous by turn, but bare (save
for a few weeks in spring) of green thing, naked of bush or shrub,
innocent even of grass. Not a tree grows so far as eye can reach, not a
watercourse but is stone-dry and leaves the impress that it has been so
since time began. Oh, it is an unlovely landscape, that central plateau.
'Twere ungrateful, nevertheless (and unjust too), to forget that here we
are journeying in a glory of atmosphere, brilliant in aggressive
radiance that annihilates distance and revels in space. Though patches
of vine-growth be lost in the monotony of tawny expanse, mud-built
hamlet and village church indistinguishable amidst a universal khaki,
yet this is, in truth, a kingdom of the sun. The great bustard maintains
a foothold on these arid uplands, but the fauna is best exemplified by
the desert-loving sand-grouse (_Pterocles arenarius_).

Precisely the reverse of all this is Cantabria--the Basque provinces of
the north, with Galicia and the Asturias. There, bordering on the
Biscayan Sea, you find a region absolutely Scandinavian in
type--pinnacled peaks, precipitous beyond all rivals even in Spain, with
deep-rifted valleys between, rushing salmon-rivers and mountain-torrents
abounding in trout. Here the fauna is alpine, if not subarctic, and
includes the brown bear and chamois, the ptarmigan, hazel-grouse, and

Cantabria is a region of rock, snow, and mist-wraith; of birch and
pine-forest--the very antithesis of the third region, that next concerns
us, the smiling plains of Andalucia and Valencia nestling on
Mediterranean shore. Here for eight months out of the twelve one lives
in a paradise; but the summer is African in its burden of heat and
discomfort. Every green thing outside the vineyard and irrigated garden
is burnt up by a fiery sun, a sun that changes not, but, day following
day, grips the land in a blistering embrace. Climatic conditions such as
these reacting on a race already infused with Arab blood naturally
conduce to Oriental modes of life. Yet even here we have examples of the
curious contradictions that characterise this _pays de l'imprévu_. Thus
within sight of one another, there flourish on the _vega_ below the
date-palm and sugar-cane, while the ice-defying edelweiss embellishes
the snows above--arctic and tropic in one.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such extremes of climate react, as suggested, upon the character of the
human inhabitants of a land which includes within its boundaries nearly
all the physical conditions of Europe and North Africa. From the north,
as might be expected, comes the worker--the sturdy laborious Galician,
disdained and despised by his Andalucian brother, regarded as lacking in
dignity--the very name _Gallego_ is a term of reproach. But he is a
happy and contented hewer of wood and drawer of water, that Gallego:
throughout Spain he carries the baskets, bears the burdens, cleans the
floors; and finally returns, a rich man, to his barren hills of Galicia.

The Andalucian will condescend to tend your cattle or garden, to drive
your horses or ponies: and such offices he will perform well; but
anything menial, or what he might regard as derogatory, he
prefers--instinctively, not offensively--to leave to the Galician. From
Castile and Navarre comes a different caste, stately and aristocratic by
nature, yet with fiery temperament concealed beneath subdued
exterior--honestly, we prefer both the preceding exemplars. The Catalan
comes next, pushing and effervescent, all for his own little corner, his
factories and his trade--impregnated, every man, with a sort of
cinematograph of advanced views on social and political questions of the
day--borrowed mostly from his up-to-date neighbours beyond the Pyrenees,
yet grafted on to old-world _fueros_, or franchises, that date back to
the times of the Counts of Barcelona.[1] Perhaps the most perfect
example of contemporary natural nobility is afforded by the
peasant-proprietor of pastoral León; then there is the Basque of Biscay,
Tartar-sprung or Turanian, Finnic, or surviving aboriginal--let
philologists decide. Among Spain's manifold human types, we suggest to
ethnologists (and suggested before, twenty years ago) the study of a
surviving remnant that still clings secreted, lonely as lepers, in the
far-away mountains of Northern Estremadura--the Hurdes. These wild
tribes of unknown origin (presumed to be Gothic) live apart from Spain,
four thousand of them, a root-grubbing race of _homo sylvestris_,
squatted in a land without written history or record, where all is
traditional even to the holding of the soil. Not a title-deed or other
document exists; yet this is a region of considerable extent--say fifty
miles by thirty. A recent pilgrimage to these forgotten glens enables us
to give, in another chapter, some contemporary facts about "Las Hurdes."

Throughout Spain the people of the "lower orders"--the peasantry--strike
those who leave the beaten tracks by their independence and manly
bearing. North or south, east or west, an infinite variety of races
differing in habit and character, even in tongue, yet all agreeing in
their solid manliness, in straight-forward honesty, in what the Romans
entitled _virtus_--fine types save where contaminated by _empléomania_,
call that "officialdom" (one of the twin curses of Spain). Largely there
exists here ground-work for the rebuilding of Spanish greatness--such a
land awaits but the wand of a magician to recall its people to front
rank. Neither by despotic methods nor by the power that is only
demonstrated by violence will the change be brought about, but by the
enlightenment that has learnt to leave unimitated the follies of the
past, and unused the forces of coercion.

Such a leader, we believe, to-day wields that wand. May he be spared to
restore the destinies of his country.

It was in Spain, remember, that, more than 2000 years ago, the fate of
Carthage and, later, that of Rome was decided. To the latter Imperial
city Spain had given poets, philosophers, and emperors. It was in Spain
that there dawned the earlier glimmerings of popular liberties, as such
are now understood. Self-government with municipal rights were
recognised by the Cortes of León previous to our Magna Charta.
Individual guarantees, freedom of person and contract, and the
inviolability of the home were granted by the Cortes of Zaragoza in
1348--more than three centuries before our Habeas Corpus was signed in
1679. A land with such traditions and achievements, with its twenty
millions of inhabitants, cannot long be held back outside the trend of
liberal expansion.

The pursuit of game, alike with other aspects of Spanish things, is not
exempt from startling surprises. A ramble through the cistus-scrub, with
no more exciting object than shooting a few redlegs, may result in
bagging a lynx; or a handful of snipe from some cane-brake be augmented
by the addition of a wild-boar. It is not that game abounds, but that
the country is wide and wild, abandoned to natural state and combining
conditions congenial to animal-life. Of the big-game that is obtained or
of its habitats, there is no approximate estimate, nor do precise
knowledge or records exist. Each village in the sierra or higher
mountain-region lives its own life apart. Communication with other
places is rare and difficult, nor is it sought. One must go oneself to
the spot to ascertain with any sort of accuracy what game has been, or
may be obtained thereat. This means finding out every fact at
first-hand, for no reliance can be placed on reports or hearsay
evidence. Nor does this remark apply to game alone: it applies
universally in wilder Spain. The Englishman straying in these lone
scenes finds himself amongst a kindly but independent people where
sympathy and a knowledge of the language carry him further than money.
Where all are _Caballeros_, neither titles nor wealth impress or subdue.
The wanderer is free to join his new-made friends in the chase, taking
equal chance with keen sportsmen and on terms of equality. He will find
his nationality a passport to their liking, and soon discover that Arab
hospitality has left an abiding impress in these wild regions; as,
indeed, Moorish domination has done on every Spanish thing.

That last sentence sums up an ever-present and essential factor. In any
description of this country, however superficial, this Oriental heritage
must always be borne in mind as an influence of first importance.
Previous to the Arab inrush, Spain had enjoyed practically no organic
national existence. The Peninsula was occupied by a cluster of separate
kingdoms, not united nor even homogeneous, and usually one or another at
war with its neighbour. Neither Roman nor Goth had fused the Spanish
races into a concrete whole during their eight centuries of
overlordship. In A.D. 711 occurred a decisive day. Then, on Guadalete's
plain, below the walls of Jerez, that impetuous Arab chieftain Tarik
overthrew the Gothic King Roderick and with him the power of Spain. Like
an overwhelming flood, the Arabs swept across the land. Within two years
(by 713) the insignia of the Crescent floated above every castle and
tower, and Moslem rule was absolute throughout the country--excepting
only in the wild northern mountains of Asturias, whence the tenacity of
the mountaineers, guided by the genius of Pelayo, flung back the tide of


WOODCHAT SHRIKE (_Lanius pomeranus_)]

Spanish history for the next seven centuries (711-1492) records "Moorish
domination." Now history, as such, lies outside our scope; but we become
concerned where Arab systems, and their methods of colonisation, have
altered the face of the earth and left enduring marks on wilder Spain.
And we may, beyond that, be allowed to interpolate a remark or two in
elucidation of what sometimes appear popular misconceptions on these and
subsequent events. Thus, during the period denominated "domination," the
Arab conquerors enjoyed no peaceful or undisputed possession. During all
those centuries there continued one long succession of wars--intermittent
attempts, successful and the reverse, at reconquest by the Christian
power. Here a patch of ground, a city, or a province was regained;
presently, perhaps, to be lost a second or a third time. Never for long
was there a final acceptance of the major force. But during the
interludes, the periods of rest between struggles, the two contending
races lived in more or less friendly intercourse, exchanging courtesies
and even maintaining a stout rivalry in those warlike forms of sport
which in mediæval times formed but a substitute for war. It was thence
that the custom of bull-fighting took its rise. If not fighting Arabs,
fight bulls, and so prepare for the more strenuous contest. Such
conditions could not but have tended towards greater coherence among the
various elements on the Christian side, except for the incessant
internecine rivalries between the Christians themselves. A Spanish
knight or kinglet would invoke the aid of his nation's foe to
consolidate or establish his own petty estate. Christians with Moslem
auxiliaries fought Moslems reinforced by Christian renegades.

The Moorish invader had to fight for his possession--every yard of it.
Yet despite that, this energetic race found time to colonise, to develop
and enrich the subjugated region with a thoroughness the evidence of
which faces us to-day. We do not refer to their cities or to such
monuments in stone as the Mezquita or Alhambra, but to their
introduction into rural Spain of much of what to-day constitutes chief
sources of the country's wealth, and which might have been enormously
increased had Moorish methods been followed up. The Koran expressly
ordains and directs the introduction of all available fruits or plants
suitable to soil that came, or comes, under Moslem dominion. "The man
who plants or sows the seed of anything which, with the fruit thereof,
gives sustenance to man, bird or beast does an action as commendable as
charity"--so wrote one of their philosophers. "He who builds a house and
plants trees and who oppresses no one, nor lacks justice, will receive
abundant reward from the Almighty." There you have the religion both of
the good man and the good colonist. These precepts the Moors habitually
and energetically carried out to the letter. Arboriculture was
universal: the provinces of Valencia, Cordoba, and Toledo they filled
with trees--fruit-trees and timber. In the warm valleys of the coast and
in the sheltered glens of the mountains they acclimatised exotic fruits,
plants, and vegetables hitherto restricted to the more benign climes of
the East or to Afric's scorching strand. Sugar-cane flourished in such
luxuriance as to leave available a heavy margin for export. The fig-tree
and carob, quince and date-palm, the cotton-plant and orange, with other
aromatic and medicinal herbs, together with aloes and the
anachronous-looking prickly-pear (_Cactus_), its amorphous lobes
reminiscent of the Pleistocene, were all brought over for the use and
benefit, the delight and profit of Europe. Of these, the orange to-day
forms one of Spain's most valuable exports, representing some three
millions sterling per annum.


GRIFFON VULTURE (_Gyps fulvus_)

Abounds all over Spain: sketched while drying his wings after a
thunderstorm, in the Sierra de San Cristobal, Jerez.]

Silk and its manufacture represented another immense source of wealth
and industry introduced into Spain--to-day extinct. The Moors covered
Andalucia with mulberry-groves: in Granada alone ran 5000 looms for the
weaving of the fibre, and the streets of the Zacatin and the Alcarcería
became world-markets, where every variety of costly stuffs were bought
and sold--tafetans, velvets, and richest textures that surpassed in
quality and brilliancy of tint even the far-famed products of Piza,
Florence, and the Levantine cities which since Roman days had
monopolised the silk-supply of the world. These now found their wares
displaced by Spanish silks; even the sumptuous "creations" of Persia and
China met with a dangerous rivalry.

Such was the technical skill and success of the Moors in agriculture and
acclimatisation that, on the eventual conquest and final expulsion of
their race from Spain, overtures were made with a view of inducing a
certain proportion to remain, lest Spain might lose every expert she
possessed in these essential pursuits. Six families in every hundred
were promised amnesty on condition of remaining, but none accepted the
offer. Deep as was their love for Spain--so deep that the departing
Moors are related to have knelt and kissed its strand ere embarking,
broken-hearted, for Africa--yet not a man of them but refused to remain
as vassals where, for centuries, they had lived as lords.

Such were the Moors--strong in war, yet equally strong in all the arts
and enterprises of peace, filled with energy, an industrious and a
practical race. It is safe to say that under their regime the resources
of this difficult land were being developed to their utmost capacity.[2]

Of the final expulsion of the Moors (and that of the Jews was analogous)
'tis not for us to write. Yet, for Spain, both events proved momentous,
and, along with the antecedent practices of the Moriscos, provide
side-lights on history that are worth consideration.[3]

The subjoined statistics give the state of Spanish agriculture at the
present day, the total acreage being taken as 50,451,688 hectares (2-1/2
acres each):--

  Cultivated                               21,702,880

    Pasture, scrub, and wood   24,055,547
    Unproductive                4,693,261

                                   Total   28,748,808
                             Grand Total   50,451,688

These figures demonstrate precisely the extent of the authors'
condominium in Spain--well over one-half the country! With the area
under cultivation (say 43 per cent), we have but one concern--the Great
Bustard. The remaining 57 per cent pertain absolutely to our
province--Wilder Spain. The term scrub or brushwood (in Spanish
_monte_), though by a sort of courtesy it may be ranked as
"pasture"--and parts of it do support herds of sheep and goats--implies
as a rule the wildest of rough covert and jungle, rougher far than a
Scottish deer-forest; and this _monte_ clothes well-nigh one-half of

Such figures may appear to infer considerable apathy and lack of effort
as regards agriculture. 'Twere, nevertheless, a false assumption to
conclude that Spanish mountaineers are an idle race--quite the reverse,
as is repeatedly demonstrated in this book. In the hills every acre of
available soil is utilised, often at what appears excessive
labour--maybe it is a patch so tiny as hardly to seem worth the tilling,
or so terribly steep that none save a _serrano_ could keep a foothold,
much less plough, sow, and reap.

The main explanation of the immense percentage of waste lies in the fact
first set forth--the high general elevation of Spain; and, secondly, in
her mountainous character.

Whether these or any other extenuating circumstances apply to the
corn-lands, we are not sufficiently expert in such subjects as to
express a confident opinion. But we think not. So antiquated, wasteful,
and utterly inefficient have been Spanish methods of agriculture, that a
land which might be one of the granaries of Europe is actually to some
extent dependent on foreign grain, and that despite an import-duty! A
distinct movement is, nevertheless, perceptible in the direction of
employing modern agricultural machinery, chemical manures, and
such-like. Irrigation in a land whose head-waters can be tapped at 2000
feet and upwards could be carried out on a larger scale and at cheaper
rates than in any other European country--yet it is practically
neglected; no considerable extension has been made to the two million
acres of irrigated lands that existed when we last wrote, twenty years
ago, although the ruined aqueducts of Roman, Goth, and Moor are ever
present to suggest the silent lesson of former foresight and prosperity.


(As still commonly used.)]

One incidental circumstance of rural Spain, the fatal effects of which
are all-penetrating (though it will never be altered), is absenteeism on
the part of landowners. Not even a tenant-farmer will live on his
holding. No, he must have his town-house, and employ an administrator or
agent to superintend the farm, only visiting it himself at rare
intervals. Oh! that hideous nightmare, the hireling, how his dead-weight
of apathy and dishonesty at secondhand crushes out every spark of
interest and enterprise, and breeds in their stead a rampant crop of all
the petty vices and frauds that prey on industry. But that evil can
hardly be eradicated.

What we British understand by the expression "country life" totally
fails to commend itself to the more gregarious peoples of the south.
Rich and poor alike, from grandee to day-labourer, the Spanish ignore
and disdain the joys of the country. They call it the _campo_ and the
_campo_ they detest. Each nightfall must see every man of them,
irrespective of class, assembled within the walls of their beloved town
or city, irresistibly attracted to street-girt abode--be it humblest cot
or sumptuous palace (and one stands next door to the other). Even
suburban existence is eschewed. There are no outer fringes to a Spanish
town. No straggling "villa residences," no Laburnum Lodge or River-View
"ornament" the extramural solitude. Back at dusk all hie, crowding to
the _paséo_, to club or casino, to social gathering and games of chance
or (more rarely) of skill. That ubiquitous term "_animacion_," which may
be translated gossip, chatter, light-hearted intercourse, fulfils the
ideals of life. Its more serious side--reading, study, scientific
pursuit--have little place; seldom does one see a library in any Spanish
home, urban or rural.

None can accuse the authors of desiring to use a comparison
(proverbially odious) to the detriment of our Spanish friends. The above
is merely a record of patent facts that must quickly become obvious to
the least observant. It is but a definition of divergent idiosyncrasies
as between different human genera. And remember that we in England have
recently been told that our rural system is fraught with unseen and
unsuspected evil. Into those wider questions we have no intention of
entering. But at least our impressions are based upon personal
experience of both lines of life, while much of the vituperation
recently poured upon rural England is derived from a view of but one,
and not a very clear view at that.

Where the owner--big or little, but the more of them the better--lives
on the land, that land and the country at large benefit to a degree that
is demonstrated with singular clearness by seeing the converse system as
it is practised in Spain to-day. Here no one, owner or tenant--still
less the hireling--takes any living interest (to say nothing of pride)
in his possession or occupation beyond that very short-sighted
"interest" of squeezing the utmost out of it from day to day. Ancient
forests are cut down and burnt into charcoal, and rarely a tree
replanted or a thought given to the resulting effects on rainfall or
climate. As to beauty of landscape--what matter such æsthetic notions
when the owner lives a hundred miles away? The collateral fact that, to
a great extent, nature's beauty and nature's gifts are analogous and
interdependent is ignored. Such simple issues are too insignificant,
and too little understood, for frothy rhetoricians to reflect upon: the
latter, moreover, like Gallio (and Pontius Pilate) care for none of
these things.

A characteristic that differentiates the Spaniard, north or south, from
other (more modern) nationalities, is a comparative indifference in
money matters. Now a Spaniard requires money for his daily needs as much
as the others; yet he never sinks to the level of total absorption in
his pursuit of the dollar. Put that down to apathy, if you will--or to
pride; at least there is dignity in the attribute. The leading Spanish
newspapers quote the various market fluctuations and changes in value
from day to day. Sometimes, possibly, the report may read _sin
operaciones_, but never will you see conspicuously protruded, as a main
item in the morning's news, the headline "Wall Street." There is (or
was) dignity in commerce, and there may yet be readers in England who
silently wish that such matters were relegated to their proper
position--the monetary columns.


CETTI'S WARBLER (_Sylvia cettii_)

A winter songster, abundant but rarely seen, skulking in densest

The chief financial flutter that interests is the Government lottery
which is held every fortnight, and at which all classes lose their
money; but the National Treasury profits to the tune of three millions
sterling yearly. Spain is the home of "chance": that element appeals to
Spanish character. Thus in bull-fighting (the one popular pastime) the
name applied to each of its formulated exploits is _suerte_--chance.

       *       *       *       *       *

SPAIN is frequently accused of being a land of _mañana_. Hardly can we
call to mind a book on the country in which some play on that word does
not figure. But procrastination is not confined to any one country, and
in this case the accusers are quite as likely to be guilty as the
accused. A characteristic that strikes us as more applicable is rather
the reverse--that of taking no thought for the morrow. Let us take an
example or two. It is not the custom to repair roads. When, from long
use, a road has gradually passed from bad to worse, till at length it
has virtually ceased to exist, then it is "reconstruction" that is the
remedy. Annual repairs, one may presume, would cost, say half the
amount, would preserve continuous utility, and avoid that slowly
aggravated destruction that ends finally in a hiatus. But that is not
the Spanish way. "Reconstruction" is preferred. The ruthless cutting
down of her forests without replanting a single tree has already been
quoted. Next take an example or two of the things that lie most directly
under the authors' special view, such as game. The ibex--a unique asset,
restricted to Spain, and of which any other country would be proud--has
been callously shot down without thought for to-morrow, extirpated for
ever in a dozen of its former habitats. The redleg--under the murderous
system of shooting, year in and year out, over decoy-birds--would be
exterminated within three or four years in any other country save this.
It is merely the incredible fecundity of the bird and the vast area of
waste lands that preserves the breed. Partridge in Spain are like
rabbits in Australia--indestructible. The trout affords another example.
Everywhere else on earth the trout is prized as one of nature's valued
gifts--hard to over-appreciate. Fully one-half of Spain is expressly
adapted to its requirements. Trout were intended by nature to abound
over the northern half of Spain--say down to the latitude of Madrid, and
even in the extreme south where conditions are favourable, as in the
Sierra Neváda. Trout might abound in Spain to the full as they abound in
Scotland or Norway, adding value to every river and a grace to country
life. But what is the treatment meted out to the trout in Spain? No
sooner is its presence detected than the whole stock--big and little
alike, even the spawn--is blown out of existence with dynamite, poisoned
by quicklime, or captured wholesale (regardless of season or condition)
in nets, cruives, funnel-traps, and every other abomination. Kill and
eat, big or little, breeding female or immature--it matters not; kill
all you can to-day and leave the morrow to itself. True, there are
game-laws and close-seasons, but none observe them.[4]


DARTFORD WARBLER (_Sylvia undata_)

Resident. Frequents deep furze-coverts, seldom seen (as we are
constrained to represent it) in separate outline.]

We have selected these examples because we know and can speak with
absolute authority. Presumption and analogy will naturally suggest that
the same intelligence, the same blind improvidence will apply equally in
other and far more important matters. Not one of our Spanish friends
with whom we have discussed these subjects time and again but agrees to
the letter with the above conclusions and most bitterly regrets them.




Travel in all the wilder regions of Spain implies the saddle. Our Spain
begins, as premised, where roads end. For us railways exist merely to
help us one degree nearer to the final plunge into the unknown; and not
railways only, but roads and bridges soon "petter out" into trackless
waste, and leave the explorer face to face with open
wilds--_despoblados_, that is, uninhabited regions--with a route-map in
his pocket that is quite unreliable, and a trusty local guide who is
just the reverse.


FANTAIL WARBLER (_Cisticola cursitans_)

Resident: builds a deep purse-like nest supported on long grass or

Riding light, with the "irreducible minimum" stowed in the saddle-bags,
one may traverse Spain from end to end. But it is only a hasty and
superficial view that is thus obtainable, and except for those who love
roughing it for roughness' sake, even the freedom of the saddle presents
grave drawbacks in a land where none live in the country and none travel
off stated tracks. In the _campo_, nothing--neither food for man nor
beast--can be obtained, and no provision exists for travellers where
travellers never come. The little rural hostelry of northern lands has
no place; there is instead a _venta_ or _posada_ which may too often be
likened to a stable for beasts with an extra stall for their riders. It
is a characteristic of pastoral countries everywhere that their rude
inhabitants discriminate little between the needs of man and beast.

But even towns of quite considerable size--when far removed from the
track--are totally devoid of inns in our sense. Inns are not needed. The
few Spanish travellers who, greatly daring, venture so far afield,
usually bespeak beforehand the hospitality of some local friend or


ROCK-THRUSH (_Petrocincla saxatilis_)

A beautiful spring-migrant to the highest sierras. Colours of male:
opal, orange, and black, with a white "mirror" in centre of back.
Female, yellow-brown barred with black.]

Incidentally it may be added that a visit to one of these
out-of-the-world cities--asleep most of them for the last few
centuries--is a pleasing and restful change amidst the racket of
exploration. One breathes a mediæval atmosphere and marvels at the
revelation, enjoying prehistoric peeps in lost cities replete for the
antiquary with historic memorial and long-forgotten lore. No one cares.

Yet in those bygone days of Spain's world-power these somnolent spots
produced the right stuff,--a minority, no doubt, belonged to the type
satirised by Cervantes,--but many more strong in mind as in muscle, who
went forth, knights-errant, Paladins and Crusaders, to conquer and to
shape the course of history. Is the old spirit extinct? Our own
impression is that the material is there all right ready to spring to
life like the stones of Deucalion, so soon as Spain shall have shaken
off her incubus of lethargy and the tyranny that clogs the wheels of
progress. Nor need the interval be long.

       *       *       *       *       *

That sound human material continues to exist in rural Spain we have had
recent evidence during the calling-out of levies of young troops ordered
abroad to serve their country in Morocco. None could witness the
entrainment at some remote station of a detachment of these fine lads
without being struck by their bearing, their set purpose, and above all
their patriotism. With such material, with a well cared-for, contented,
and loyal army and a broadening of view, wisely graduated but equally
resolute, Spain moves forward. Alfonso XIII. is a soldier first--No!
Above that he is a king by nature, but his care for his army and its
well-being has already borne fruits that are making and will make for
the honour, safety, and advancement of his country.

       *       *       *       *       *

To resume our interrupted note on travel: whether you are riding across
bush-clad hills, over far-spread prairie, or through the defiles of the
sierra, as shadows lengthen the problem of a night's lodging obtrudes.
There is a variety of solutions. At a pinch--as when belated or
benighted--one may, in desperate resort, seek shelter in a _choza_. Now
a _choza_ is the reed-thatched hut which forms the rural peasant's
lonely home. Assuredly you will be made welcome, and that with a grace
and a courtesy--aye, a courtliness--that characterises even the humblest
in Spain. The best there is will be at your disposal; yet--if
permissible to say so in face of such splendid hospitality (and in the
hope that these good leather-clad friends of ours may not read this
book)--the open air is preferable. There exists in a _choza_ absolutely
no accommodation--not a separate room; a low settee running round the
interior, or a withy frame, forms the bed; those kindly folk live all
together, along with their domestic animals--and pigs are reckoned such
in Spain. Let us gratefully pay this due tribute to our peasant
friends--but let us sleep outside.

At each village will usually be found a _posada_. These differ in
degree, mostly from bad downwards. The lowlier sort--little better than
the _choza_--is but a long, low, one-storeyed barn which you share with
fellow-wayfarers, and your own and their beasts, or any others that may
come in, barely separated by a thatched partition that is neither
noise-proof nor scent-proof. We can call instances to mind when even
that small luxury was lacking, and all, human and other, shared alike.
There are no windows--merely wooden hatches. If shut, both light and air
are excluded; if open, hens, dogs, and cats will enter with the
dawn--the former to finish what remains of supper. The cats will at
least disperse the regiment of rats which, during the night, have
scurried across your sleeping form.

Here we relate, as a specific example, a night we spent this last spring
in northern Estremadura:--

[Illustration: A VILLAGE _POSADA_]

Owing to a miscalculation of distance, it was an hour after sundown ere
we reached our destination, a lonely hamlet among the hills. Our good
little Galician ponies were dead-beat, for we had been in the saddle
since 5 A.M., and it was past eight ere we toiled up that last steep,
rock-terraced slope. We were a party of three, with a local guide and
our own Sancho Panza--faithful companion, friend, and servant of many
years' standing. At a dilapidated hovel, the last in the village and
perched on a crag, we drew rein, and after repeated knocks the door was
opened by a girl--she had set down a five-year-old child among the
donkeys while she drew the bolt, the ground-floor being (as usual) a
stable. To our inquiry as to food--and the hunger of the lost was upon
us--our hostess merely shrugged her shoulders, and with an expressive
gesture of open hands, answered "Nada"--nothing! Sancho, however, was
equal to the occasion. Within two minutes, while we yet stood
disconsolate, he returned with a cackling cockerel in his arms. "Stew
him quick before he crows," he adjured the girl, and turned to unload
the ponies.

What an age a cockerel takes to cook! It was midnight ere he smoked on
the board and, hunger satisfied, we could turn in. In an upper den were
two alcoves with beds, or rather stone ledges, ordinarily used by the
family, and which were assigned to us, the luckless No. 3 by lot having
to make shift (in preference to sleeping on a filthy floor) with three
cranky tables of varying heights, and whose united lengths proved a foot
too short at either end!

Oh, the joy of the morning's dawn and delicious freshness of the
mountain air, as we turned out at five o'clock for yet another
ten-league spell to our next destination. Two nights later we slept in
the gilded luxury of Madrid! But how we abused our previous neglect in
not having brought a camp-outfit.

The above, however, presents the gloomier side of the picture, and there
is a reverse, even in _posadas_. We cannot better describe the latter
side than in our own words from _Wild Spain_:--


     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 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 to
     enter into friendly discussion with the "Ingles." Then, as you
     light your _breva_, a note or two struck on the guitar falls 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--sing, one enjoys many
     verses that are very prettily as well as wittily conceived.

     But 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 begins; 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.[5] 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 that one can hardly follow their movements.

     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 and freedom of
     the dance, or 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-lamps
     suspended from the rafters? Perhaps it is only the remembrance of
     many happy evenings spent among these 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 acquaintance with Spanish country life and customs
     than a few evenings spent thus at a farm-house or village inn in
     any retired district of laughter-loving Andalucia.

For rough living we are of course prepared, and accept the necessity
without demur or second thought while travelling. But when more serious
objects are in hand--say big-game or the study of nature, objects which
demand more leisurely progress, or actually encamping for a week or more
at selected points--then we prefer to assure complete independence of
all local assistance and shelter.


SERIN (_Serinus hortulanus_)

A true European canary, but its song is harsh and hissing.]

An expedition on this scale involves an amount of care and forethought
that only those who have experienced it would credit. For in Spain it is
an unknown undertaking, and to engineer something new is always
difficult. Quite an extensive camping-trip can be organised in Africa,
where the system is understood, with less than a hundredth part of the
care needed for a comparatively short trip in Spain where it is not. The
necessary bulk of camp-outfit and equipment requires a considerable
cavalcade, and this mule-transport (since no provender is obtainable in
the country) involves carrying along all the food for the animals--the
heaviest item of all. Naturally the cost of such expeditions works out
to nearly double that of simple riding.

But, after all, it is worth it! Compare some of the miseries we have
above but lightly touched upon--the dirt and squalor, the nameless
horrors of _choza_ or _posada_--with the sense of joyous exhilaration
felt when encamped by the banks of some babbling trout-stream or in the
glorious freedom of the open hill. Casting back in mental reverie over a
lengthening vista of years, we certainly count as among the happiest
days of life those spent thus under canvas--whether on the sierras and
marismas of Spain, on high field or dark forest in Scandinavia, or on
Afric's blazing veld.

Should some remarks (here or elsewhere in this book) appear
self-contradictory the reason will be found rather in our inadequate
expression than in any confusion of idea. We love Spain primarily
because she is wild and waste; but, loving her, are naturally desirous
that she should advance to that position among nations that is her due.
Such material development, nevertheless, need not--and will not--imply
the total destruction of her wild beauties. Development on those lines
would not consist with the peculiar genius of the Spanish race, and,
while we trust the development will come, we fear no such collateral
results. Take, for instance, the corn-lands. There the great bustard is
alike the index and the price of vast, unwieldy farms unfenced and but
half tilled, remote from rail, road, or market. That condition we
neither expect nor hope to see exchanged for smug fields with a network
of railways. For "three acres and a cow" is not the line of Spanish
regeneration; it is rather a claptrap catch-word of politicians--a
murrain on the lot of them!

True, the plan seems to answer in Denmark, and if the Danes are
satisfied, well and good--that is no business of ours. But no such
mathematical and Procrustean restriction of vital energies and ambitions
will subserve our British race, nor the Spanish. In Spanish sierra may
the howl of the wolf at dawn never be replaced by blast from factory
siren, nor the curling blue smoke of the charcoal-burner in primeval
forest be abolished in favour of black clouds belching from bristling
chimneys that pierce a murky sky. Either in such circumstance would be

Similarly, when the engineer shall have been turned loose in the Spanish
marismas, he can, beyond all doubt, destroy them for ever. His straight
lines and intersecting canals, hideous in utilitarian rectitude, would
right soon demolish that glory of lonely desolation--those leagues of
marshland, samphire, and glittering _lucio_. And all for nothing! Since
the desecration will not "pay" financially--the reason we give in detail
elsewhere--and you sacrifice for a shadow some of the grandest bits of
wild nature that yet survive--the finest length and breadth of utter
abandonment that still enrich a humdrum Europe. Should "progress" only
advance on these lines no scrap of that continent will be left to
wanderer in the wilds--no spot where clanging skeins of wild-geese serry
the skies, and the swish of ten thousand wigeon be heard overhead; or
that marvellous iridescence--as of triple flame--the passing of a flight
of flamingoes, be enjoyed.[6]

That national progress and development may come, for Spain's sake, we
earnestly pray. But does there exist inherent reason why progress, in
itself, should always come to ruin natural and racial beauties? Progress
seems nowadays to be misunderstood as a synonym for uniformity--and
uniformity to a single type. Disciples of the cult of insensate haste,
of self-assertion and advertisement, have pretty well conquered the
civilised world; but in Spain they find no foothold, and we glory to
think they never will. Spain will never be "dragooned" into a servile
uniformity. There remain many, among whom we count our humble selves,
who bow no knee to the modern Baal, and who (while conceding to the
"hustling" crowd not one iota of their pretensions to fuller efficiency
in any shape or form) are proud to find fascination in simplicity, a
solace in honest purpose and in old-world styles of life--right down (if
you will) to its inertia.

Yes, may progress come, yet leave unchanged the innate courtesy, the
dignity and independence of rural Spain--unspoilt her sierras and
glorious heaths aromatic of myrtle and mimosa, alternating with natural
woods of ilex and cork-oak--self-sown and park-like, carpeted between in
spring-time with wondrous wealth of wild flowers. There is nothing
incongruous in such aspiration. Incongruity rather comes in with
misappreciation of the fitness of things, as when a coal-mine is planked
down in the midst of sylvan beauties, to save some hypothetic
penny-a-ton (as per Prospectus); where pellucid streams are polluted
with chemical filth and vegetation blasted by noisome fumes; or where
God's fairest landscapes are ruined by forests of hideous smoke-stacks.

If vandalisms such as these be progress then we prefer Spain as she is.


After all, it is less with the human element that this book is concerned
than with the wild Fauna of Spain; a brief introductory notice thereof
cannot, therefore, be omitted.

[Illustration: BONELLI'S EAGLE (_Aquila bonellii_)

A pair disturbed at their eyrie.]

As head of the list must stand the Spanish Ibex (_Capra hispánica_), a
game-animal of quite first rank, peculiar to the Iberian Peninsula, and
whose nearest relative--the Bharal (_Capra cylindricornis_)--lives 2500
miles away in the far Caucasus. In Spain the ibex inhabits six great
mountain-ranges, each covering a vast area but all widely separated.
After a crisis that five years ago threatened extermination, this grand
species is now happily increasing under a measure of protection and the
ægis of King Alfonso. Next--a notable neighbour of the ibex (and
practically extinct in central Europe)--we place the lone and lordly
Lammergeyer. A memorable spectacle it is to watch the huge _Gypaëtus_
sweeping through space o'er glens and corries of the sierra in striking
similitude to some weird flying dragon of Miocene age--a vision of
blood-red irides set on a cruel head with bristly black beard, of hoary
grey plumage and golden breast. Watch him for half an hour--for half a
day--yet never will you discern a sign of force exerted by those 3-yard
pinions. With slightly reflexed wings he sinks 1000 feet; then, shifting
course, rises 2000, 3000 feet till lost to sight over some appalling
skyline. You have seen the long cuneate tail deflected ever so
slightly--more gently than a well-handled helm--but the wide lavender
wings remain rigid, not an effort that indicates force have you
descried. Yet the power (so defined as "horse-power") required to raise
a deadweight of 20 lbs. through such altitudes can be calculated by
engineers to a nicety--how is it exerted? That the power is there is
conspicuous enough, and at least it serves to explain fabled traditions
of giant lammergeyers hurling ibex-hunter from perilous hand-hold on the
crag, to feast on the remains below; or, in idler moment, bearing off
untended babes to their eyries--alas! that the duty of nature-students
involves dissipating all such romance.


BLACK VULTURE (_Vultur monachus_)

Nests in the mountain-forests of Central Spain, and winters in
Andalucia. Sketched in Cote Doñana--"Getting under way."]

Spain, as geologically designed, being, as to one-half of her
superficies, either a desert wilderness or a mountain solitude,
naturally lends congenial conditions of life to the predatory forms that
rely on hooked bill, on tooth and claw, fang and talon, to ravage their
more gentle neighbours. Savage raptores, furred and feathered,
characterise her wilder scenes. Wherever one may travel, a day's ride
will surely reveal huge vultures and eagles circling aloft, intent on
blood. Throughout the wooded plains the majestic Imperial Eagle is
overlord--you know him afar in sable uniform, offset by snow-white
epaulets. Among the sierras a like condominium is shared by the Golden
and Bonelli's Eagles--and they have half-a-dozen rivals, to say nothing
of lynxes and fierce wolves (we give a photo of one, the gape of whose
jaws exceeds by one-half that of an African hyaena). Then there patrol
the wastes a horde of savage night-rovers, denominated in Spanish
_Alimañas_, to which a special chapter is devoted.


WHITE-FACED DUCK (_Erismatura leucocephala_)

Bill much dilated, waxy-blue in colour. Wings extremely short; a sheeny
grebe-like plumage, and long stiff tail, often carried erect.]

In Estremadura, where man is a negligible quantity, and along the wild
wooded valley of the Tagus, roams the Fallow-deer in aboriginal purity
of blood--whether any other European country can so claim it, the
authors have been unable to ascertain. In Cantabria and the Pyrenees the
Chamois abounds.

Of the big game (the list includes red, roe, and fallow-deer,
wild-boar, ibex, chamois, brown bear, etc.), we treat in full detail

As regards winged game, this south-western corner of Europe, is
singularly weak. There exists but a single resident species of true
game-bird--the redleg. Compare this with northern Europe, where, in a
Scandinavian elk-forest, we have shot five kinds of grouse within five
miles; while southwards, in Africa, francolins and guinea-fowl are
counted in dozens of species. True, there are ptarmigan in the Pyrenees,
capercaillie, hazel-grouse, and grey partridge in Cantabria, but all
these are confined to the Biscayan area. Nor are we overlooking the
grandest game-bird of all, the Great Bustard, chiefest ornament of
Spanish steppe, and there are others--the lesser bustard, quail,
sand-grouse, etc.--but these hardly fall within our definition. As for
the teeming hosts of wildfowl and waterfowl that throng the Spanish
marismas (some coming from Africa in spring, the bulk fleeing hither
from the Arctic winter), all these are so fully treated elsewhere as to
need no further notice here.

Spain boasts several distinct species peculiar to her limits. Among such
(besides the ibex) are that curious amphibian, the Pyrenean musk-rat
(_Myogale pyrenaica_), not again to be met with nearer than the eastern
confines of Europe. Birds afford an even more striking instance. The
Spanish azure-winged magpie (_Cyanopica cooki_) abounds in Castile,
Estremadura, and the Sierra Moréna, but its like is seen nowhere else on
earth till you reach China and Japan!



     A Foreword by SIR MAURICE DE BUNSEN, G.C.M.G., British Ambassador
     at Madrid.

Among my recollections of Spain none will be more vivid and delightful
than those of my visits to the Coto Doñana. From beginning to end,
climate, scenery, sport, and hospitable entertainment combine, in that
happy region, to make the hours all too short for the joys they bring.
Equipped with Paradox-gun or rifle, and some variety of ammunition, to
suit the shifting requirements of deer and boar, lynx, partridge,
wild-geese and ducks, snipe, rabbit and hare, nay, perhaps a chance shot
at flamingo, vulture, or eagle, the favoured visitor steps from the
Bonanza pier into the broad wherry waiting to carry him across the
Guadalquivir, a few miles only from its outflow into the Atlantic. In
its hold the first of many enticing _bocadillos_ is spread before him.
Table utensils are superfluous luxuries, but, armed with hunting blade
and a formidable appetite, he plays havoc with the red mullet,
_tortilla_, and _carne de membrillo_, washed down with a tumbler of
sherry which has ripened through many a year in a not far distant

In half an hour he is in the saddle. Distances and sandy soil prohibit
much walking in the Coto Doñana.





Marshalled by our host, the soul of the party, the cavalcade canters
lightly up the sandy beach of the river. Thence it strikes to the left
into the pine-coverts, leading in five hours more to the friendly roof
of the "Palacio." A picturesque group it is with Vazquez, Caraballo, and
other well-known figures in the van, packhorses loaded with luggage and
implements of the chase, and lean, hungry _podencos_ hunting hither and
thither for a stray rabbit on the way. The views are not to be
forgotten, the distant Ronda mountains seen through a framework of
stone-pines, across seventy miles of sandy dunes, marismas, and
intervening plains. After a couple of hours we skirt the famous
sandhills, innocent of the slightest dash of green, which for some
inscrutable reason attract, morning after morning, at the first tinge of
dawn, countless greylag geese to their barren expanse and on which, _si
Dios quiere_, toll shall be levied ere long. The marismas and long
lagoons are covered here and there with black patches crawling with
myriads of waterfowl, to be described after supper by the careful
Vazquez as _muy pocos, un salpicon_--a mere sprinkling. Their names and
habits, are they not written, with the most competent of pens, in this
very volume? We stop, perhaps, for a first deer-drive on our line of
march. How thrilling that sudden rustle in the brushwood! Stag is it, or
hind, or grisly porker? As we approach the "Palacio" we see the
spreading oak on which perched, contemptuous and unsuspecting, the
imperial eagle, honoured this year by a bullet from King Alfonso's
unerring rifle. As we ride through the scrub the whirr of the
red-legged partridge sends an involuntary hand to the gun. They may
await another day. At dusk we ride into the whitewashed _patio_, just in
time to sally forth and get a flighting woodcock between gun and
lingering glow of the setting sun.

For no precious hours are wasted in the Coto Doñana. Next day at early
dawn, maybe, if the lagoon be our destination, or at any rate after a
timely breakfast, off starts again the eager cavalcade, be it in quest
of red deer or less noble quarry. Then all day in the saddle, from drive
to drive, dismounting only to lie in wait for a stag, or trudge through
the sage-bushes after partridge, or flounder through the boggy _soto_,
beloved of snipe, with intervening oases for the unforgotten

If Vazquez be kind, he will take you one day to crouch with him behind
his well-trained stalking-horse, drawing craftily nearer and nearer to
where the duck sit thickest, till, straightening your aching back, you
have leave to put in your two barrels, as Vazquez lays low some twenty
couples with one booming shot from his four-bore, into the brown.




But one morning surely a visit must be paid to the sandhills. Caraballo
will call you at 4 A.M., and soon after you will be jogging over the six
or eight miles which separate the "Palacio" from that morning
_rendezvous_ of the greylag. The stars still shine brightly as you
dismount at the foot of the long stretch of dunes. A few minutes' trudge
will deposit you in a round hole dug deep in the dazzling white expanse
the day before; for a hole too freshly dug will expose the damp brown
sand from below, staining the spotless surface with a warning blotch,
and causing the wary geese to swerve beyond the range of your No. 1
shot. It is still dark as you drop into your hole. Gradually the sky
grows greyer and lighter, till the sun rises from the round yellow rim
of the blue morning sky. Who shall describe the magic thrill of the
first hoarse notes falling on your straining ear? The temptation to peep
out is strong, but crouching deep down, you wait till the mighty pinions
beat above you, and the first wedge of eight or ten sails grandly away
in the morning sun. You judge them out of shot. But surely this second
batch is lower down? Are they not close upon you? Why then no response
to your two barrels? Was the emotion too great, or have you misjudged
the speed of that easy flight or its distance through the crystal
air? All the keener is the joy when, with heavy thump, your first goose
is landed on the sand amid the tin decoys. When three or four lie there,
Vazquez will send his fleet two-legged "water-dog" to set them up with
twigs supporting their bills, to beguile more of their kind into line
with the barrels. If the day be propitious, the sky will be dotted at
times with geese in all directions. Now and again they will give you a
shot, the expert taking surely three or four to the tyro's one. It is
half-past eight, and you have sat in your hole close on two hours before
Vazquez comes to gather the slain, to which he will add two or three
more, marked down afar, and picked up as dead as the rest. Never have
two of your waking hours passed so quickly. What would you not give to
live them over again and undo some of those inexplicable misses? But one
goose alone would amply repay that early start. Even four or five are
all you can carry, and the twenty or thirty that our expert [who must be
nameless] would have shot, will live to stock the world afresh.

[Illustration: SPANISH LYNX]

Among the fauna of the Coto Doñana, a word must be given to the lynx.
Never can I forget sitting one afternoon, Paradox in hand, on the fringe
of a covert. I was waiting for stag, rather drowsily, for the beat was a
long one and the sun hot, when my eyes suddenly rested on a lynx
standing broadside among the bushes, beyond a bare belt of sand, some
fifty yards off. Fain would I have changed my bullet for slugs, but
those sharp ears would have detected the slightest click; so I loosed
my bullet for what it was worth.

The lynx was gone. When the beat came at last to an end, I thought I
would just have a look at his tracks. He lay stone-dead behind a bush,
shot through the heart.

The eventful days are all too soon over. But the recollection remains of
happy companionship and varying adventure, of easy intercourse between
Spaniard and Englishman, with the echo of many a sporting tale, mingled
with sage discourse from qualified lips on the habits of bird and beast.
Who can tell you more about them than that group of true sportsmen and
lovers of nature whose names, Garvey, Buck, Gonzalez, and Chapman, are
indissolubly linked with the more modern history of the famous Coto



_July 1910_.

[Illustration: GREENSHANK (_Totanus canescens_)]




The great river Guadalquivir, dividing in its oblique course seawards
into double channels and finally swerving, as though reluctant to lose
all identity in the infinite Atlantic, practically cuts off from the
Spanish mainland a triangular region, some forty miles of waste and
wilderness, an isolated desert, singular as it is beautiful, which we
now endeavour to describe. This, from our having for many years held the
rights of chase, we can at least undertake with knowledge and affection.


Its precise geological formation 'twere beyond our power, unskilled in
that science, to diagnose. But even to untaught eye, the existence of
the whole area is obviously due to an age-long conflict waged between
two Powers--the great river from within, the greater ocean without. The
Guadalquivir, draining the distant mountains of Moréna and full 200
miles of intervening plain, rolls down a tawny flood charged with yellow
mud till its colour resembles _café au lait_. Thus proceeds a ceaseless
deposit of sediment upon the sea-bed; but the external Power forcibly
opposes such infringement of its area. Here the elemental battle is
joined. The river has so far prevailed as to have grabbed from the sea
many hundred square miles of alluvial plain, that known as the marisma;
but at this precise epoch, the Sea-Power appears to have called
checkmate by interposing a vast barrier of sand along the whole
battle-front. The net result remains that to-day there is tacked on to
the southernmost confines of Europe a singular exotic patch of African

This sand-barrier, known as the Coto Doñana, occupies, together with its
adjoining dunes on the west, upwards of forty miles of the Spanish
coast-line, its maximum breadth reaching in places to eight or ten
miles. The Coto Doñana is cut off from the mainland of Spain not only by
the great river, but by the marisma--a watery wilderness wide enough to
provide a home for wandering herds of wild camels. (See rough sketch-map

Sand and sand alone constitutes the soil-substance of Doñana, overlying,
presumably, the buried alluvia beneath. Yet a wondrous beauty and
variety of landscape this desolate region affords. From the river's
mouth forests of stone-pine extend unbroken league beyond league, hill
and hollow glorious in deep-green foliage, while the forest-floor revels
in wealth of aromatic shrubbery all lit up by chequered rays of dappled
sunlight. Westward, beyond the pine-limit, stretch regions of Saharan
barrenness where miles of glistening sand-wastes devoid of any vestige
of vegetation dazzle one's sight--a glory of magnificent desolation, the
splendour of sterility. To home-naturalists the scene may recall St.
John's classic sandhills of Moray, but magnified out of recognition by
the vastly greater scale, as befits their respective creators--in the
one case the 100-league North Sea, here the 1000-league Atlantic. Rather
would we compare these marram-tufted, wind-sculptured sand-wastes with
the Red Sea litoral and the Egyptian Soudan, where Osman Digna led
British troops memorable dances in the 'nineties--alike both in their
physical aspect and in their climate, red-hot by day, yet apt to be
deadly chilly after sundown. Resonant with the weird cry of the
stone-curlew and the rhythmic roar of the Atlantic beyond, these seaward
dunes are everywhere traced with infinite spoor of wild beasts, and
dotted by the conical pitfalls dug by ant-lions (_Myrmeleon_).

[Illustration: IN DOÑANA.]

Between these extremes of deep forest and barren dune are interposed
intermediate regions partaking of the character of both. Here the
intrusive pine projects forest-strips, called _Corrales_, as it were
long oases of verdure, into the heart of the desert, hidden away between
impending dunes which rear themselves as a mural menace on either hand,
and towering above the summits of the tallest trees. Nor is the
menace wholly hypothetic; for not seldom has the unstable element
shifted bodily onwards to engulf in molecular ruin whole stretches of
these isolated and enclosed _corrales_. Noble pines, already half
submerged, struggle in death-grips with the treacherous foe; of others,
already dead, naught save the topmost summits, sere and shrunk, protrude
above that devouring smiling surface, beneath which, one assumes, there
lie the skeletons of buried forests of a bygone age.

All along these lonely dunes there stand at regular intervals the grim
old watch-towers of the Moors, reminiscent of half-forgotten times and
of a vanished race. Arab telegraphy was neither wireless nor fireless
when beacon-lights blazing out from tower to tower spread instant alarm
from sea to sierra, seventy miles away.

In contrast with the scenery of both these zones, shows up the landscape
of a third region, on the west--that of scrub. Here, one day later in
geological sense, the eye roams over endless horizons of rolling
grey-green brushwood, the chief component of which is cistus
(_Helianthemum_), but interspersed in its moister dells with denser
jungle of arbutus and lentisk, genista, tree-heath, and giant-heather,
with wondrous variety of other shrubs; the whole studded and ornamented
by groves of stately cork-oaks or single scattered trees. All these,
with the ilex, being evergreen, one misses those ever-changing autumnal
tints that glorify the "fall" in northern climes. Here only a sporadic
splash of sere or yellow relieves the uniform verdure.

Obviously regions of such physical character can ill subserve any human
purpose. As designed by nature, they afford but a home for wild beasts,
fowls of the air, and other _ferae_ which abound in striking and
charming variety. For centuries the Coto Doñana formed, as the name
imports, the hunting-ground of its lords, the Dukes of Medina Sidonia,
and to not a few of the Spanish kings--from Phillip IV. in the early
part of the seventeenth century (as recorded by the contemporary
chronicler, Pedro Espinosa) to Alfonso XII. in 1882, and quite recently
to H.M. Don Alfonso XIII. For five-and-twenty years the authors have
been co-tenants, previously under the aforesaid ducal house; latterly
under our old friend, the present owner.

The sparse population of Doñana includes a few herdsmen (_vaqueros_)
who tend the wild-bred cattle and horses that in semi-feral condition
wander both in the regions of scrub and out in the open marisma. Nomadic
charcoal-burners squat in the forests, shifting their reed-built wigwams
(_chozas_) as the exigencies of work require; while the gathering of
pine-cones yields a precarious living to a handful of _piñoneros_.
Lastly, but most important to us, there are the guardas or keepers,
keen-eyed, leather-clad, and sun-bronzed to the hue of Red Indians.
There are a dozen of these wild men distributed at salient points of the
Coto, most of them belonging to families which have held these posts,
sons succeeding fathers, for generations. Of three such cycles we have
ourselves already been witnesses.

Briefly to summarise a rich and heterogeneous fauna is not easy; a
volume might be devoted to this region alone. Elsewhere in this book
some few subjects are treated in detail. Here we merely attempt an
outline sketch.

[Illustration: MARSH-HARRIER (_Circus aeruginosus_)]

Throughout the winter (excepting only the wildfowl) there exists no such
conspicuous ornithic display as appeals to casual eye or ear--those,
say, of the average traveller. Ride far and wide through these wild
landscapes in December or January, and you may wonder if their
oft-boasted wealth of bird-life be not exaggerated. You see, perhaps,
little beyond the ubiquitous birds-of-prey. These are ever the first
feature to strike a stranger. Great eagles, soaring in eccentric
circles, hunt the cistus-clad plain; the wild scream of the kite rings
out above the pines, and shapely buzzards adorn some dead tree. Over
rush-girt bogs soar weird marsh-harriers--three flaps and a drift as,
with piercing sight, they scan each tuft and miss not so much as a frog
or a wounded wigeon. All these and others of their race are naturally
conspicuous. But, though unseen, there lurk all around other forms of
equal beauty and interest, abundant enough, but secretive and apt to be
overlooked save by closest scrutiny. That, however, is a characteristic
of winter in all temperate lands. Birds at that season are apt to be
silent and elusive, but their absence is apparent rather than real.

[Illustration: "SILENT SONGSTERS"]

All around you, in fact, forest and jungle, scrub, sallow, and
bramble-brake abound with minor bird-forms--with our British summer
visitors, here settled down in their winter quarters; with charming
exotic warblers and silent songsters--all off work for the season. Where
nodding bulrush fringes quaking bog, or miles of tasselled cane-brakes
border the marsh, there is the home of infinite feathered amphibians,
crakes and rails, of reed-climbers and bush-skulkers, all for the nonce
silent, shy, reclusive.

[Illustration: BLACKSTART (_Ruticilla titys_)

Abundant in winter; retires to the sierra to nest.]

Their portraits, roughly caught during hours of patient waiting, may be
found (some of them) scattered through these chapters. But the present
is not the place for detail.

The land-birds in winter you hardly see, for they "take cover."

Diametrically different--in cause and effect--is the case of wildfowl.
These, by the essence of their natures and by their economic
necessities, are always conspicuous, for they inhabit solely the open
spaces of earth--the "spaces" that no longer exist at home: shallows,
wastes, and tidal flats devoid of covert. Wildfowl, for that reason,
have long learnt to discard all attempt at concealment, to rely for
safety upon their own eyesight and incredible wildness. No illusory idea
that security may be sought in covert abuses their keen and receptive
instincts. Probably it never did. Nowadays, at any rate, they openly
defy the human race with all its brain-begotten devices. There, in
"waste places," wildfowl sit or fly--millions of them--conspicuous and
audible so far as human sense of sight and sound can reach, and there
bid defiance to us all. Much of these wastes are not (in the cant of a
hypocritical age) "undeveloped," but rather, as means exist, incapable
of development. Such spectacles of wild life as these Andalucian
marismas to-day present are probably unsurpassed elsewhere in Europe--or
possibly in the world. In foreground, background, and horizon both earth
and sky are filled with teeming, living multitudes; while the shimmering
grey monotony of the marisma, tessellated with its grey armies of the
_Anatidae_, is everywhere brightened and adorned by rosy battalions of
flamingoes. And out there, far beyond our visible horizon, there wander
in that watery wilderness the wild camels, to which we devote a separate

Flamingoes ignore the limits of continents, and shift their mobile
headquarters between Europe and Africa as the respective rainfall in
either happens to suit their requirements. Hence, whether by day or
night, the sight or sound of gabbling columns of flamingoes passing
through the upper air is a characteristic of these lonely regions,
irrespective of season. Cranes also in marshalled ranks, and storks,
continually pass to and fro. The African coast, of course, lies well
within their range of vision from the start.

[Illustration: (1) SAHARAN SAND-DUNES.]

[Illustration: (2) TRANSPORT.]



Then as winter merges into spring--what time those clanging crowds of
wild-geese and myriad north-bound ducks depart--there pours into
Andalucia an inrush of African and subtropical bird-forms. The sunlit
woodland gleams with brilliant rollers and golden orioles, while
bee-eaters, rivalling the rainbow in gorgeous hues, poise and dart in
the sunshine, and their harsh "chack, chack," resounds on every side.
Woodchats, spotted cuckoos, hoopoes, and russet nightjars appear; lovely
wheatears in cream and black adorn the palm-clad plain. With them comes
the deluge--no epitomised summary is possible when, within brief limits,
the whole feathered population of southern Europe is metamorphosed. The
winter half has gone north; its place is filled by the tropical inrush
aforesaid. Warblers and waders, larks, finches, and fly-catchers,
herons, ibis, ducks, gulls, and terns--all orders and genera pour in
promiscuously, defying cursory analysis.

[Illustration: GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO (_Oxylophus glandarius_)]

A single class only will here be specifically mentioned, and that
because it throws light on climatic conditions. Among these vernal
arrivals come certain raptores in countless numbers--all those which are
dependent on reptile and insect food. For even in sunny Andalucia the
larger reptiles and insects hibernate; hence their persecutors
(including various eagles, buzzards, and harriers, with kites and
kestrels in thousands) are driven to seek winter-quarters in Africa.

Another phenomenon deserves note. Weeks, nay months, after this great
vernal upturn in bird-life has completed its revolution, and when the
newcomers have already half finished the duties of incubation, then in
May suddenly occurs an utterly belated little migration quite
disconnected from all the rest. This is the passage, or rather
through-transit, of those far-flying cosmopolites of space that make the
whole world their home. They have been wintering in South Africa and
Madagascar, in Australia and New Zealand, and are now returning to
their summer breeding-grounds in farthest Siberia, beyond the Yenisei.
Thus some morning in early May one sees the marismas filled with godwits
and knots, curlew-sandpipers and grey plovers, all in their glorious
summer-plumage. But these only tarry here a few days. A short week
before they had thronged the shores of the southern hemisphere--far
beyond the zodiac of Capricorn. A week hence and they are at home in the

Andalucia possesses a feathered census that approaches 400 species; but
of these hardly a score are permanently resident throughout the year.

[Illustration: "GLOBE-SPANNERS"

Rest twelve hours in Spain on the journey--Australia to Siberia.]

Four-footed creatures are less difficult of diagnosis than are birds. By
nature less mobile, they are infinitely less numerous specifically.
Relatively the Spanish census is long, and includes, locally, quite a
number of interesting beasts that are "lumped together" as
_Alimañas_--to wit, lynxes, wild-cats, genets, mongoose, foxes, otters,
badgers, of which we treat separately. The two chief game-animals of the
Coto Doñana are the red deer and the wild-boar. These two we here
examine from the sportsman's point of view as much as from that of the

The Spanish red deer are specifically identical with those of Scotland
and the rest of Europe, and are distributed over the whole southern half
of the Iberian Peninsula--say south of a line drawn through Madrid.
Their haunts, as a rule, are restricted to the
mountain-ranges--especially the Sierra Moréna, where they attain their
highest development. That red deer should be found inhabiting lowlands
such as the Coto Doñana is wholly exceptional. In Estremadura, it is
true, there are wild regions (in Badajoz and Cáceres) where deer are
spread far and wide over wooded and scrub-clad plains, all these,
however, being subjacent to neighbouring sierras, which refuges are
available for retreat in case of need. Nowhere else in Spain, save here
in the Coto Doñana only, are red deer restricted exclusively to

[Illustration: CONFIDENCE]

This South-Spanish race (the southernmost of all if we except the
distinct but limited breed that yet maintains a foothold in North
Africa, the Barbary stag, which is white-spotted) differs from Scotch
types in their longer faces and slim necks unadorned with the hairy
"ruff" of harsher climes. Beyond a doubt, when our species-splitting
friends arrive in Spain, they will differentiate her red deer (and ibex
also) in various species or subspecies, each with a Latin trinomial.
Such energies, however, may easily be superfluous, even where not
actually mischievous. For practical purposes there exists but one
European species, though it has, even within Spain, its local varieties;
while, further afield, geographical and climatic divergencies naturally
tend to increase.[7]

We cannot claim for our lowland deer of Doñana a high standard of
comparative quality; they are, in fact, the smallest race in Spain,
almost puny as compared with her mountain breed--smaller also than the
Barbary stag. Clean weights here rarely exceed 200 lbs., while a 30-in.
head must be accounted beyond the average. The general type, both of
horn and body, is illustrated by various photos and drawings in this

Deer-shooting in Spain takes place in the winter. The rutting season
commences at the end of August, terminating early in October, and stags
have recovered condition by the end of November.

The habits of red deer being, here as elsewhere, strictly nocturnal, and
the country densely clad with bush, it follows that these animals are
seldom seen amove during daylight. Hence deer-stalking, properly so
called, is not available, nor is the method much esteemed in Spain. In
Scotland one may detect deer, though it be but a tip of an antler, when
couched in the tallest heather or fern. Here, where heather grows six or
eight feet in height with a bewildering jumble of other shrubbery of
like proportions, no such view is possible. Hence "driving" is in Spain
the usual method of deer-shooting, whether in mountain or lowland.


(Picked up in Doñana.)]


There is, nevertheless, one opportunity of stalking which (though not
regarded with favour) has yet afforded us delightful mornings, and to
which a few lines of description are due. The plan is based upon
cutting-out the deer as they return from their nocturnal pasturages at
daybreak. As the last watch of night wears on towards the dawn, the
deer, withdrawing from their feeding-grounds on open strath or marsh,
slowly direct a course covertwards, lingering here and there to nibble a
tempting genista, or to snatch up a bunch of red bog-grass on their
course. We have reached a favourite glade, often used by deer. It is not
yet light--rather it might be described as nearly dark--when the
splashing of light hoofs through water puts us on the alert. A few
moments suffice to gain a bushy point beyond; whence presently six or
eight nebulous forms emerge from deceitful gloom. Of course there is not
a horn among them, bar a little yearling, for good stags never come thus
in troops, and with all due caution, so as to avoid alarming these, we
hurry away to try another likely spot. Time is of the essence of this
business, for light is now strengthening, and in another half-hour the
deer will all have gained their coverts and the chance will be past.
Again groups of hinds and small beasties meet our gaze; but some
distance beyond are a couple of stags. It is light enough now, by aid of
the glass, to count their points--only eight apiece, no use. While yet
we watch, a pack of graceful white egrets alight close around the nearer
deer--some dart actively between the grazing animals picking flies and
insects from their legs and stomachs; two actually perching,
cavalier-like, on their withers to search for ticks--magpies, on
occasion, we have observed similarly employed. The sun's rim now peers
from out the watery wastes in front; nothing worth a bullet has
appeared, and our morning's work looks as good as lost when my
companion, Pepe, detects two really good stags which, though already
within the shelter of fringing pines, yet linger in a lovely glade,
tempted for fatal minutes by a clump of flowering rosemary. The wind
demands a considerable detour; yet the pair still dally while we gain
the deadly range, and a second later the better of the two drops amidst
the ensnaring blue blossoms. Pepe's half-soliloquising comment precisely
interprets the Spanish estimate of stalking:--"The first stag I ever
saw shot with his head down!" Other countries, other standards; but
there is a ring of sterling chivalry in it too. The idea conveyed is
that the noble stag should meet his death, only when duly forewarned of
danger and bounding in wild career o'er bush and brake.

Without unduly trespassing on our Spanish friends' susceptibilities, we
have nevertheless enjoyed such mornings as this. To begin with, that
hour of breaking day is ever delicious to spend afield. Therein one
observes to best advantage the wild beasts, undisturbed and following
their secret, solitary lives--one learns more in that hour than in all
the other twenty-three. One seems almost to associate with deer, so near
can the troops of hinds and small staggies be approached; and, moreover,
there may be afforded the advantage of selecting some splendid head
afar, and thus commencing a stalk which, believe me, does not always
prove easy. Yonder comes a fox, trotting straight in from his night's
hunting in the distant marisma. Let him come on within fifty yards, and
then give him a bit of a fright--it is a wild goose he drops as he turns
to fly! A single glint of something ruddy catches the eye; this the
glass shows to be a sunray playing on the pelt of a prowling lynx,
hateful of daylight and hurrying junglewards. Rarely are these
nocturnals seen thus, after sun-up, and not for many seconds will the
spectacle last; for no animal is more intensely habituated to
concealment, or hates so much to move even a few yards in the open.

Following are two or three incidents selected as illustrative of this
matutinal work:--

...A really fine stag--already against the glory of the eastern light, I
have counted thirteen points and there may be more. Half an hour later
we have gained a position--not without infinite manoeuvres, including
a crawl absolutely flat across forty yards of bog and black mire--a
position that in five more minutes should secure to us that trophy. The
five hinds that, before it was fully light, had been in the Royal
company, have already, long ago, passed away in the scrub on our right,
and give us now no further concern. Never should hinds be thus lightly
regarded! The slowly approaching stag stops to nibble a golden broom. He
is already almost within shot--seconds must decide his fate--when a
triple bark, petulant and defiant, breaks the silence behind. Those five
hinds, sauntering round, have gone under our wind, and now ... the
landscape is vacant.

[Illustration: APRIL.]

[Illustration: JUNE.]

"Hinds only bark at a _persona_," remarks Dominguez, as we turn
homewards, "never at any other _bicho_." The stag knew that too. But it
was a curious way of putting it.

...We are too early; it is still pitch-dark; no sign of dawn beyond a
slight opalescence low on the eastern horizon. Moreover, an icy wind
rustles across the waste, and for dreary minutes we seek shelter,
squatting beneath some friendly gorse. Presently a strange sound--a
distinct champing, and close by--strikes our ears. "Un javato comiendo"
= "a boar feeding," whispers Dominguez, and creeping a few yards towards
an open strath, we dimly descry a dusky monster. At the moment his snout
is buried deep in the soil, up to the eyes, and the tremendous muscular
power exerted in uprooting bulbs of palmetto arrests attention even in
the quarter-light. Now he stands quiescent, head up, and the champing is
resumed--a rare scene. The distance is a bare fifteen yards, and all the
while my companion insists on hissing in my ear, "tiré-lo, tiré-lo" =
"shoot, shoot." Presently up goes the boar's muzzle; straight and
steadfastly he gazes in our direction, but his glance seemed to pass
high over our heads. I don't think he saw us; yet a consciousness of
danger had got home--in two bounds he wheeled and disappeared, headlong,
amid the bush beyond.

...Far and wide the bosky glade is furrowed with sinuous trenches, and
infinite turrets stand erect as where children build sand-castles on the
beach. Last night a troop of wild-pig have sought here for
mole-crickets--small fry, one may think; yet even worms they don't
despise, for we have seen masses of these reptiles (some still alive) in
the stomach of a newly-shot boar. Follow the spoor onwards, and where it
enters a pine-grove, you notice splintered cones and scattered seed.
Thus wild-beasts are assisting to fulfil nature's plan, and if you care
to advance it another stage, turn some soil over those overlooked
pine-nuts, and some day forest-monarchs will result to reward another

       *       *       *       *       *

Such matutinal forays are, however, but an incident. The main system of
dealing with the deer is by driving. For this purpose both the fragrant
solitudes of pine and far-stretched wilds of bending cistus are mentally
mapped out by the forest-guards into definite "beats," each of which
has its own name; though to a casual visitor (since guns are necessarily
placed differently day by day according to the wind) the actual
boundaries may appear indefinite enough.

On lowlands such as the Coto Doñana, which is more or less level and
open, the use of far-ranging rifles is necessarily restricted by
considerations of safety. Obviously no shot, on any pretext whatever,
may be fired either into the beat or until the game has passed clear of
and well outside the line of guns. In every instance, as a gun is
placed, the keeper in charge indicates by lines drawn in the sand or
other unmistakable means the limits within which shooting is absolutely
prohibited. The result, it follows, not only increases the prospective
difficulty of the shot, but gives fuller scope to the instinctive
intelligence of the game. For deer, unlike some winged game, do not,
when driven, dash precipitately straight for illusory safety, but retire
slowly and with extreme circumspection; all old stags, in particular,
fully anticipate hidden dangers to lie on their line of flight, and
narrowly scrutinise any suspicious feature ahead before taking risks.
The gunner will therefore be wise to occupy the few minutes that remain
available in so arranging both himself and his post as to be
inconspicuous; and also in an accurate survey of his environment with
its probable chances, thereby minimising the danger of being taken by
surprise. The cunning displayed by an old stag when endeavouring to
evade a line of guns at times approaches the marvellous. Thus, on one
occasion, the writer was warned of the near approach of game by a single
"clink"--a noise which deer sometimes make, probably unintentionally,
with the fore-hoof--yet seconds elapsed, and neither sight nor sound
were vouchsafed. Then the slightest quiver of a bough beneath caught my
eye. A big stag with antlers laid flat aback, and crouching to half his
usual height, though going fairly fast, was slipping, silent and
invisible, through thick but low brushwood immediately beneath the
little hillock whereon I lay. On examining the spot, the spoor showed
that he had passed thus through openings barely exceeding two feet in
height, though he stood himself forty-six inches at the withers. The
feat appeared impossible.[8]

[Illustration: SUSPICION]

In thick forest or brushwood that limits the view it may be advisable to
sit with back towards the beat, relying on ears to indicate the approach
or movements of game. While sitting thus, it will occur that you become
aware of the arrival of an animal, or of several animals, immediately
behind you. The natural inclination to look round is strong; but 'twere
folly to do so--fatal to success. This is the critical moment, when a
few seconds of rigid stillness will be rewarded by a shot in the open.
But that stillness must be statuesque, as of a stone god. For piercing
eyes are instantly studying each bush and bough, and analysing at close
quarters the least symptom of danger ahead.

Should a good stag break fairly near, it is advisable to allow it to
pass well away before moving a muscle. For should the game be
prematurely alarmed--say by your missing exactly upon the firing-line,
or otherwise by its detecting your movement of preparation--that stag
will instantly bounce back again into the beat. Then, assuming that the
sportsman is a tyro, or subject to "emotions" or buck-fever, there is
danger of his forgetting for one moment his precise permitted line of
fire; in which case a perilous shot must result. Once allowed to pass
_well outside_, the stag will usually continue on his course.

In this, as in every form of sport, "soft chances" occasionally occur.
More often, the rifle will be directed at a galloping stag crashing
through bush that conceals him up to the withers; or, it may be,
bounding over inequalities of broken ground or brushwood, or among
timber, at any distance up to 100 yards, sometimes 150, while, should he
have touched a taint in the wind, his pace will be tremendous.

Although to casual view a plain of level contours this country is
undulated to an extent that deceives a careless eye--the more
accentuated by the monotone of cistus-scrub that appears so uniform. In
reality there traverse the plain glens and gently graded hollows the
less apt to be noticed, inasmuch as the scrub in moister dell grows

Far through the marish green and still the watercourses sleep.

Inspiring moments are those when--before the beat has commenced--your
eye catches on some far-away skyline the broad antlers of a stag. This
animal has perhaps been on foot and alert, or maybe has taken the "wind"
from the group of beaters wending a way to their points far beyond. For
three seconds the antlers remain stationary, then vanish into some
intervening glen. A glance around shows your next neighbour still busy
completing his shelter--meritorious work if done in time--and you have
strong suspicion that the man beyond will just now be lighting a
cigarette! Such thoughts flash through one's mind; the dominant question
that fills it is: "Where will that great stag reappear?" But few seconds
are needed to solve it. Perhaps he dashes, harmless, upon the careless,
perhaps upon the slow--lucky for him should either such event befall! On
the other hand, those moments of glorious expectancy may resolve in a
crash of brushwood hard by, in a clinking of cloven hoofs, and a noble
hart with horns aback is bounding past your own ready post. What
proportion, we inwardly inquire, of the stags that are killed by
craftsmen has already, just before, offered first chance to the careless
or the slovenly?

[Illustration: "INSPIRING MOMENTS."


We may conclude this chapter with an independent impression.

     Lying hidden in one of these lonely _puestos_--writes J. C.
     C.--ever induces in me a powerful and sedative sense of
     contemplation and reflection, though fully alert all the time.
     While thus waiting and watching, I can't but marvel, first at
     nature's wondrous plan of waste--a scheme here without apparent
     object or promise of fulfilment. Where I lie the prospect comprises
     nothing but melancholy and unutterably silent solitudes of sand,
     droughty wastes with but at rare intervals some starveling patch of
     scant weird shrub destined either to shrivel in summer's sun or
     shiver in winter's winds. But, lying in that environment, one
     marvels yet more at the extreme caution displayed by wild animals;
     one has exceptional opportunity of admiring the exquisitive gifts
     bestowed by nature upon her _ferae_. Here is a young stag coming
     straight along, down-wind, ere yet the beat has begun, and in a
     desolate spot which to human sense could betray absolutely no
     feature or taint of danger. Suddenly he becomes rigid, arrested in
     mid-career--sniffing at a pure untainted air, yet conscious somehow
     of something wrong somewhere! It is a miraculous gift, though one
     cannot but feel grateful that we humans are devoid of senses that
     ever keep nerves in highest tension. Here is a sketch of a
     non-shootable stag thus suddenly statuetted thirty yards from me
     snugly hidden well down-wind, and so intensely interested that
     _something else_ (a very old pal) well-nigh escaped notice.

     [Illustration: ALTABACA (_Scrofularia_)

     The starveling shrub that grows in sand.]

     [Illustration: TOMILLO DE ARENA

     Another sand-plant (in spring has a lovely pink bloom like

     That something was our good friend Reynard--_Zorro_ they style him
     out here--whose proverbial cunning exceeds all other cunnings. He
     has come down to my track and there stopped dead, expressing in
     every detail the very essence of doubly-distilled subtlety and
     craft. At those footprints he halts, sniffs the wind, curls his
     brush dubiously--as a cat will do when pleased--but not sure yet of
     his next move. One second's consideration decides him and it is
     executed at once--he is off like a gust of wind. But a Paradox ball
     at easy range in the open broke a hind-leg, and it was curious to
     note his evolutions--he, poor fellow, not realising what had
     occurred, flung himself round and round in rapid gyrations, the
     while biting at his own hind-leg. Needless to say not an instant
     passed ere a second ball terminated his sufferings. To observe the
     beautiful traits in the habits of wild beasts is to me quite as
     great a joy as adding them to my score and immensely augments the
     enjoyment of a big-game drive.

[Illustration: "WHAT'S THIS?"]


This list is neither comprehensive nor consecutive, but merely a record
of such good and typical heads as we happened to have within reach.

_For Table of Heads of Mountain-Deer see Chapter on Sierra Moréna._

                 |               |    Widest.   |        |       |
                 |   Length.     |--------------|Circum- |Points.|  Remarks.
                 |   (Inches.)   |Tips. |Inside.|ference.|       |
  W. I. B.       |32-1/4         |30    |...    |  ...   |   13  |
    Do.          |31 + 30-1/4    |32-5/8|...    |  ...   |   10  |No bez.
  P. Garvey      |    31         |28    |...    |  4-5/8 |   15  |
  Col. Brymer    |30-1/2 + 28    |27    |23     |  4-1/4 |   10  |No bez.
  Col. Echagüe   |30-1/8 + 28-1/2|20    |18     |  4-1/2 |   14  |4 on each top.
  Villa-Marta,   |29-3/4 + 29-1/2|31-1/4|...    |  4-1/2 |   13  |4 on each top,
    Marquis      |               |      |       |        |       |  but 1 bez
                 |               |      |       |        |       |  wanting.
  Segovia,       |               |      |       |        |       |
    Gonzalo[9]   |29-3/4 + 29-1/2|39-1/2|...    |  5-1/4 |   10  |No bez.
  Arión, Duke of |29 + 28        |30    |...    |  ...   |   14  |
  A. C.          |29 + 28-1/4    |25    |...    |  5     |   12  |
    Do.          |28-1/2         |26-1/2|...    |  5-1/8 |   13  |
  P. N. Gonzalez |28-1/2         |25    |22     |  5     |   12  |
  Arión, Duke of |28-1/4         |23    |21-1/2 |  4-1/8 |   10  |No bez.
  F. J. Mitchell |28 + 27        |30-1/2|...    |  ...   |   14  |4 on each top.
  A. C.          |27 + 26-3/4    |24    |24     |  4-1/4 |   10  |
    Do.          |25-1/2         |28-1/4|24     |  4-1/5 |   11  |At British
                 |               |      |       |        |       |  Museum.
  Williams, Alex.|25-1/2         |27-3/4|23-1/4 |  4-1/4 |   12  |
  B. F. B.       |25-3/4 + 24    |27-1/4|22-3/4 |  4-1/4 |   12  |
  De Bunsen,     |               |      |       |        |       |
    Sir M.       |25-1/2 + 25    |27    |...    |  4-1/2 |   11  |
  B. F. B.       |24-1/2 + 24-1/2|27-1/2|...    |  4-1/2 |   12  |
  J. C. C.       |   23          |29-1/2|22-1/2 |  4-1/8 |   12  |
  B. F. B.       |22-1/2         |21-1/2|19     |  4-1/4 |   12  |

Ordinary Royals (by which we mean full-grown stags in their first prime)
average 24 or 25 inches in length of horn. Heads of 26 to 28 inches
belong to rather older beasts which have continued to improve. Anything
beyond the latter measurement is quite exceptional, and is often due,
not so much to fair straight length of the main beam as to an abnormal
development of one of the top tines--usually directed backwards. There
are, however, included in our records two or three examples of long
straight heads which fairly exceed the 30-inch length.




The line of least resistance represents twentieth-century
ideals--maximum results for the minimum of labour or technical skill. In
the field of sport, wherever available, universal "driving" supersedes
the arts of earlier venery--the pride of past generations.

In Spain, more leisurely while no less dignified, there survive in
sport, as in other matters, practices more consonant with the dash and
chivalry popularly ascribed to her national character. Such, for
example, is the attack, single-handed, on bear or boar with cold
steel--_á arma blanca_, in Castilian phrase. Here we purpose describing
the system of "Still-hunting" (_Rastreando_) as practised in Andalucia
with a skill that equals the best of the American "Red Indian," and is
only surpassed, within our experience, by Somalis and Wandorobo savages
in East Africa.

Before day-dawn we are away with our two trackers. Maybe it is a lucky
morning, and as the first streaks of light illumine the wastes, they
reveal to our gaze a first-rate stag. In that case the venture is vastly
simplified. It is merely necessary to allow time for the stag to reach
his lie-up, and the spoor can be followed at once. But barring such
exceptional fortune, it is necessary to find, or rather to select from
amidst infinity of tracks crossing and recrossing hither and thither in
bewildering profusion the trail of such a master-beast as clearly is
worthy the labour of a long day's pursuit. Twice and again we follow a
spoor for 100 yards or more over difficult ground before finally
deciding that its owner is not up to our standard of quality, and the
interrupted search is resumed. Once found, there is rarely room for
mistake with a really big spoor. The breadth of heel, the length and
deep-cut prints of the cloven toes attest both weight and quality. The
ground is open, soft, and easy. The big new track, with its spurts of
forward-projected sand, are visible yards ahead. We follow almost at a
run--how simple it seems! But not for long. Soon comes check No. 1. A
dozen other deer have followed on the same line, and the original trail
is obliterated. The troop leads on into a region of boundless bush,
shoulder-high, where the ground is harder and the trackers spread out to
right and left, backing each other with silent signals. Their skill and
patience fascinate; but it is to me, in the centre, that after a long
hour's scrutiny, falls the satisfaction of rediscovering that big track
where it diverges alone on the left. Half a mile beyond, our erratic
friend has passed through water. For a space a broken reed here or
displaced lilies there help us forward; then the deepening water, all
open, bears no trace. The opposite shore, moreover, is fringed by a
200-yard belt of bulrush and ten-foot canes, and beyond all that lies
heavy jungle.

You give it up? Admittedly these are no lines of least resistance, but
we will cut the unpopular part as short as may be and merely add that it
was high noon ere, after three hours' work--puzzling out problems and
paradoxes, now following a false clue, anon recovering the true
one--that at last the big spoor on dry land once more rejoiced our
sight. More than that, it now bears evidence--to eyes that can
read--that our stag is approaching his selected stronghold. He goes
slowly. Here he has stopped to survey his rear--there he has lingered to
nibble a genista, and the spoor zigzags to and fro. Now it turns at
sharp angle, following a cheek-wind, and a suggestive grove of cork-oaks
embedded in heavy bush lies ahead. One hunter opines the stag lies up
here: the other doubts. No half-measures suffice. We turn down-wind,
detouring to reach the main outlet (_salida_) to leeward; here I remain
hidden, while my companions, separating on right and left, proceed to
encircle the _mancha_. Two hinds break hard by, and presently Juan
returns with word that the stag has passed through the covert--better
still, that a second big beast has joined the first, and that the double
spoor, moving dead-slow and three-quarters up wind, proceeds due north.
Another mile and then right ahead lies heavy covert, but long and
straggling, and the halting trail indicates this as a certain find.

The strategic position is simple, but tactics, for a single gun, leave
endless scope for decision. Our first rule in all such cases is to get
_close in_, risk what it may. Hence, while my companions separated, as
before, to encircle the covert from right and left, the writer crept
forward yard by yard till a fairly broad and convenient open suggested
the final stand.

Not ten minutes had elapsed, nor had a sound reached my ears, when as by
magic the figure of a majestic stag filled a glade on the left--what a
picture, as with head erect he daintily picked his unconscious way!
Clearly he suspected nothing _here_; but, having got sense, sight, or
scent of Juan far beyond, was astutely moving away, with intelligent
anticipation, to safer retreat. The shot was of the simplest, and merely
black antlers crowned with triple ivory tips marked the fatal point
among deep green rushes.

Now when two big stags fraternise, as they frequently do, it usually
happens that, when pressed, both animals will finally seek the same
exit, even though a shot has already been fired there. I had accordingly
instructed the keepers that in the event of my firing, each should
discharge his gun in the air, at the same time loosing one dog. The
expected shots now rang out, presently followed by a crashing in the
brushwood. This proved to be caused by a handful of hinds with, alas!
the loose dog baying at their heels. The adverse odds had fallen to
zero, till Juan, divining what had occurred, fired again and slipt the
other dog. Anxious minutes slowly passed while my two biped
sleuth-hounds on the other side gradually, yard by yard, made good their
advance; for the wit and wiles, the practised cunning of an old stag
when thus cornered, need every scrap of our human skill to out-general,
and nothing to spare at that. But that skill was not at fault to-day,
and in the thick of the _mancha_, Manuel presently "jumped" the recusant
hart from almost beneath his feet, and his view-halloa reached expectant


Then, within a few yards of the spot where No. 1 had silently appeared,
out bounced No. 2, but in widely different style. In huge bounds, with
head and neck horizontal and antlers laid flat aback, he covered the
open like a racer. The first shot got in too far back, but the second
went right, and the two friends lay not divided in death. Both were
_coronados_ (triple-crowned), indeed the second carried four-on-top in
double pairs as sketched--a not uncommon formation--but being very old,
lacked bez tines.

Very nearly five hours had elapsed since we had first struck the spoor,
five hours of concentrated attention, crowned by the final assertion of
human "dominion." And during these moments of permissible expansion,
there was impressed on our minds the fact that such success involves
mastery of a difficult craft.

[Illustration: "TAKING THE WIND"

(A stag, on recognising human scent, will give a bound as though a knife
had been plunged into his heart.)]

Illustrative of how astutely a cornered stag will exploit every device
and avenue of escape, an excellent instance is given in _Wild Spain_, p.

Skilled deer-driving is a different undertaking from the _force majeure_
by which pheasants and such-like game may be pushed over a line of guns.
For deer do not act on timid impulse, but on practical instinct. Scent
is their first safeguard when danger threatens and their natural flight
is up-wind. But as it is obviously impossible to place guns to windward,
the operation resolves itself into moving the game--dead against its
instinct and set inclination--down-wind, or at least on a "half-wind."
The latter is easier as an operation, but less effective in result:
since the guns must be posted in echelon--otherwise each "gives the
wind" to his next neighbour below. Consequently the firing-zone of each
is greatly circumscribed.

In practice, therefore, the game has to be moved or cajoled--it can
hardly be said to be "driven"--into going, at least so far, down-wind by
skilled handling of the driving-line and by intelligent co-operation on
the part of each individual driver. In the great mountain-drives of the
sierras (elsewhere described) packs of hounds, being carefully trained,
perform infinite service. Always under control of their huntsman, they
systematically search out thickets impenetrable to man and push all game
forward. In the Coto Doñana, our scratch-pack of _podencos_ and mongrels
of every degree, run riot unchecked at hind, hare, or rabbit, giving
tongue in all directions at once, and probably do as much harm as good.

Our mounted keepers, however, expert in divining afar the yet unformed
designs of the game ahead, are quick to counter each move by a feint or
demonstration behind; and when desirable, to forestall attempted escape
by resolute riding. The Spanish are a nation of horsemen, and a fine
sight it is to see these wild guardas galloping helter-skelter through
scrub that reaches the saddle--especially the way they ride down a
wounded stag or boar with the _garrocha_--a long wooden lance.

Despite it all, however, many stags break back. Riding with the beaters
it is instructive to watch the manoeuvres of an old stag as, sinking
from sight, he couches among quite low scrub on some hillock, or stands
statuesque with horns aback hiding behind a clump of tall
tree-heaths--alert all the while, stealthily to shift his position as
yapping _podencos_ on one side or the other may suggest--and watching
each opportunity to evade the encompassing danger. Now a stretch of
denser jungle obstructs the advancing line. The beaters are forced apart
to pass it, and a gap or two yawns in the attack. Instantly that
introspective wild beast realises his advantage--he springs to sight,
ignores Spanish expletives that scorch the scrub, and in giant bounds
breaks back in the very face of encircling foes. Within thirty seconds
he has regained security amid leagues of untrodden wilds.

Some years ago we tried the plan of placing one (or two) guns with the
driving-line; but the experiment proved impracticable. Obviously only
the coolest and most reliable men could be trusted in an essay which
otherwise involved danger. Unfortunately--and it is but human
nature--every one considers himself equally cool and reliable. Hence the
breakdown and abandonment of the practice. For the long line of beaters,
struggling at different points through obstacles of varying difficulty,
necessarily loses precise formation; it becomes more or less broken and
scattered. Here and there a man may get "stuck" and left a hundred yards
behind the general advance. The risk in "firing back" is obvious. The
writer remembers being one of two guns with the beaters, when a pair of
stags, jumping up close ahead, bolted straight back, passing almost
within arm's length. As the second carried a fairly good head, I
dismounted and shot it, but was then horrified to discover that my
companion-gun had (contrary to all rules) gone back in that very
direction to shoot a _woodcock_!


On "driving" as such we do not propose to enlarge. The system is simple
though the practice is subject to variation. On the gently undulated
levels of Doñana, for example, the latter (as already indicated) is
widely differentiated from the systems practised in mountainous
countries--whether in Scotland or the Spanish sierras--where shots can
safely be accepted at incoming or at passing game. Guns are there
protected from danger by intervening ridges, crags, and piled-up rocks
that flank each "pass." Here the game must be left to pass well through
and outside the line of guns before a shot is permissible.

Our "drives," whether in forest or scrub, seldom exceed a couple of
miles in extent; but in wild regions where isolated patches of covert
are scattered, inset amid wastes of sand, the area may be extended to
half a day's ride. These long scrambling drives gain enhanced interest
to a naturalist in precisely inverse ratio with their probability of

In a big-game drive the first animals to come forward are, as a rule,
foxes and lynxes--creatures which move on impulse, and instantly quit a
zone where danger threatens. Both, however, will certainly pass unseen
should there be any scrub to conceal their retreat. The lynx especially
is adept at utilising cover, however slight. Should open patches or
sandy glades occur among the bush, foxes will be viewed bundling along,
to all appearance quite carelessly. Here in Spain foxes are merely
"vermin"; but it is a mistake to shoot them, owing to the risk of
thereby turning back better game. Neither lynx nor fox, by the way, are
accounted _caza mayor_ unless killed with a bullet.


(Sardinian warbler; conspicuous by its strong colour-contrasts.)]

As elsewhere mentioned, there is always a considerable possibility at
the earlier period of a "drive" (and even _before_ the operation has
actually commenced) of some old and highly experienced stag attempting
to slip through the line in the calculated hope (which is often well
founded) that he will thereby take most of the guns by surprise and so
escape unshot at. Never be unready.

Although in "driving," that element of ceaseless personal effort,
observation and self-reliance that characterise stalking, still-hunting,
or spooring, is necessarily reduced, yet it is by no means eliminated.
Nor are there lacking compensating charms in those hours of silent
expectancy spent in the solitude of jungle or amid the aromatic
fragrance of pine-forest. Every sense is held in tension to mark and
measure each sign or sound; 'tis but the fall of a pine-cone that has
caught your ear, but it might easily have been a single footfall of
game. The wild-life of the wilderness pursues its daily course around
unconscious of a concealed intruder in its midst. Overhead, busy
hawfinches wrestle with ripening cones, swinging in gymnastic attitude.
These are silent. You have first become aware of their presence by a
shower of scales gently fluttering down upon the shrubbery of genista
and rosemary alongside, amidst the depths of which lovely French-grey
warblers with jet-black skull-caps (_Sylvia melanocephala_) pursue
insect-prey with furious energy--dashing into the tangle of stems
reckless of damage to tender plumes. There are other bush-skulkers
infinitely more reclusive than these--some indeed whose mere existence
one could never hope to verify (in winter) save by patience and these
hours of silent watching. Such are the Fantail, Cetti's, and Dartford
warblers, while among sedge and cane-brake alert reed-climbers beguile
and delight these spells of waiting. Soldier-ants and horned beetles
with laborious gait, but obvious fixity of purpose, pursue their even
way, surmounting all obstruction--such as boot or cartridge-bag. Earth
and air alike are instinct with humble life.

[Illustration: REED-CLIMBERS]

To a northerner it is hard to believe that this is mid-winter, when
almost every tree remains leaf-clad, the brushwood green and
flower-spangled. Arbutus, rosemary, and tree-heath are already in bloom,
while bees buzz in shoulder-high heather and suck honey from its
tricoloured blossoms--purple, pink, and violet. Strange diptera 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, more rarely, one of the larger sphinxes
(_S. convolvuli_), each with long proboscis inserted deep in tender
calyx. Not even the butterflies are entirely absent. We have noticed
gorgeous species at Christmas time, including clouded yellows, painted
lady and red admiral, southern wood-argus, Bath white, _Lycaena
telicanus_, _Thäis polyxena_, _Megaera_, and many more. On the warm sand
at midday bask pretty green and spotted lizards,[10] apparently asleep,
but alert to dart off on slightest alarm, disappearing like a thought in
some crevice of the cistus stems.

[Illustration: GREAT GREY SHRIKE (_Lanius meridionalis_)]

Hard by a winter-wandering hoopoe struts in an open glade, prodding the
earth with curved bill and crest laid back like a "claw-hammer"; from a
tall cistus-spray the southern grey shrike mumbles his harsh soliloquy,
and chattering magpies everywhere surmount the evergreen bush. Where the
warm sunshine induces untimely ripening of the tamarisk, some brightly
coloured birds flicker around pecking at the buds. They appear to be
chaffinches, but a glance through the glass identifies them as
bramblings--arctic migrants that we have shot here in midwinter with
full black heads--in "breeding-plumage" as some call it, though it is
merely the result of the wearing-away of the original grey fringe to
each feather, thus exposing the glossy violet-black bases.

[Illustration: SPANISH GREEN WOODPECKER (_Gecinus sharpei_)

(1) Alighting.
(2) Calling.

Birds, as a broad rule, possess no "breeding-plumage." They only renew
their dress once a year, in the autumn, and breed the following spring
in the worn and ragged plumes. It's not poetic, but the fact.[11] This
is not the place to enumerate all the characteristic forms of bird-life,
and only one other shall be mentioned, chiefly because the incident
occurred the day we drafted this chapter. One hears behind the rustle of
strong wings, and there passes overhead in dipping, undulated flight a
green woodpecker of the Spanish species, _Gecinus sharpei_. With a
regular thud he alights on the rough bark of a cork-oak in front, clings
in rigid aplomb while surveying the spot for any sign of danger, then
projects upwards a snake-like neck and with vertical beak gives forth a
series of maniacal shrieks that resound through the silences.[12] By all
means watch and study every phase of wild-life around you--the habit
will leave green memories when the keener zest for bigger game shall
have dimmed--but never be caught napping, or let a silent stag pass by
while your whole attention is concentrated on a tarantula!

[Illustration: A TARANTULA]

By way of illustrating the practice of "driving," we annex three or four
typical instances:--

LAS ANGOSTURAS, _February 5, 1907_.--The writer's post was in a green
glade surrounded by pine-forest. A heavy rush behind was succeeded (as
anticipated) by the appearance of a big troop of hinds followed by two
small staggies. A considerable distance behind these came a single good
stag, and already the sights had covered his shoulder, when from the
corner of an eye a second, with far finer head, flashed into the
picture, going hard, and I decided to change beasts. It was, however,
too late. Half automatically, while eyes wandered, fingers had closed on
trigger. At the shot the better stag bounded off with great uneven
strides through the timber, offering but an uncertain mark. Both
animals, however, were recovered. The first, an eleven-pointer, lay dead
at the exact spot; the second was brought to bay within 300 yards, a
fine royal.

LOS NOVARBOS, _January 9, 1903_.--My post was among a grove of
pine-saplings in a lovely open plain surrounded by forest. Two good
stags trotted past, full broadside, at 80 yards. The first dropped in a
heap, as though pole-axed, the second receiving a ball that clearly
indicated a kill. While reloading, noticed with surprise that No. 1 had
regained his legs and was off at speed. A third bullet struck behind;
but it was not till two hours later, after blood-spooring for half a
league, that we recovered our game. The first shot had struck a horn (at
junction of trez tine) cutting it clean in two. This had momentarily
stunned the animal, but the effect had passed off within ten seconds.
Both were ten-pointers, with strong black horns, ivory-tipped. During
that afternoon I got & big boar at Maë-Corra; and B., who had set out at
4 A.M., twenty-three geese at the Cardo-Inchal.

FAR NORTH, _January 31, 1907_.--First beat by the "Eagles' Nest" (in the
biggest cork-oak we ever saw, the imperial bird soaring off as we rode
up). Brushwood everywhere tall and dense, giving no view. On placing me
the keeper remarked, "By this little glade (_canuto_) deer _must_ break,
but amidst such jungle will need _un tiro de merito_!" Four stags broke,
two were missed, but one secured--seven points on one horn, the other
broken. So dense is the bush here that a lynx ran almost over the
writer's post, yet had vanished from sight ere gun could be brought to
shoulder. In the next beat, La Querencia del Macho (again all dense
bush), B. shot two really grand companion stags, but again one of these
had a broken horn. This animal while at bay so injured the spine of one
of our dogs that it had to be killed two days later.[13] A third beat
added one more big stag, and the day's result--four stags with only two
"heads"--is so curious that we give the detail:--

  |                  |  Length.  | Breadth.   | Points.    |
  | W. E. B.[14]     | 23-1/2"   | (One horn) | 7 × 2      |
  | W. J. B. (No. 1) | 28"       | Do.        | 6 × 2      |
  | W. J. B. (No. 2) | 25" × 25" | 25"        | 7 × 6 = 13 |
  | A. C.            | 26" × 24" | 20-1/2"    | 6 × 5 = 11 |

Amidst forest or in dense jungle (such as last described) where no
distant view is possible, it is usually advisable to watch
outwards--that is, with back towards the beat, relying on _ears_ to
give notice of the movements of game within. But in (more or less) open
country where a view, oneself unseen, can be obtained afar, the
situation is modified. The following is an example:--

CORRAL QUEMADO, _February 1, 1909_.--The authors occupied the two
outmost posts on a high sand-ridge which commanded an introspect far
away into the heart of the covert. Already before the distant signal had
announced that the converging lines of beaters had joined, suddenly an
apparition showed up. Some 300 yards away a low pine-clad ridge
traversed the forest horizon, and in that moment the shadows beneath
became, as by magic, illumined by an inspiring spectacle--the tracery of
great spreading antlers surmounting the sunlit grey face and neck of a
glorious stag. For twenty seconds the apparition (and we) remained
statuesque as cast in bronze. Then, with the suddenness and silence of a
shifting shadow, the deep shade was vacant once more. The stag had
retired. It boots not to recall those agonies of self-reproach that
gnawed one's very being. Suffice it, they were undeserved; for five or
six minutes later that stag reappeared, leisurely cantering forward.
Clearly no specific sign or suspicion of danger ahead had struck his
mind or dictated that retirement. But his course was now, by mere chance
and uncalculated cunning, 300 yards outside the sphere of your humble
servants, the authors. That stag was now about to offer a chance to gun
No. 3, instead of, as originally, to Nos. 1 and 2. Eagerly we both
watched his course, now halting on some ridge to reconnoitre, gaze
shifting, and ears deflecting hither and thither, anon making good
another stage towards the goal of escape. A long shallow _canuto_
(hollow) concealed his bulk from view, but we now saw by the bunchy
"show" on top that this was a prize of no mean merit. Then came the
climax. Rising the slope which ended the _canuto_, in an instant the
stag stopped, petrified. Straight on in front of him, not 100 yards
ahead, lay No. 3 gun, and the fatal fact had been discovered. It may
have been an untimely movement, perhaps a glint of sunray on exposed
gun-barrel, or merely the outline of a cap three inches too high--anyway
the ambush had been detected, and now the stag swung at right angles and
sought in giant bounds to pass behind No. 2. It was a long shot, very
fast, and intercepted by intervening trees and bush--the second barrel
directed merely at a vanishing stern. Yet such was our confidence in the
aim--in both aims--that not even the subsequent sight of our antlered
friend jauntily cantering away down the long stretch of Los Tendidos
impaired by one iota its self-assurance. For a mile and more we followed
that bloodless spoor, far beyond the point whereat the keeper's solemn
verdict had been pronounced, "No lleva náda--that stag goes scot-free."
As usual, that verdict was correct.


An incident worth note had occurred meanwhile. On the extreme left of
our line, a mile away, two stags out of four that broke across the
sand-wastes had been killed; and these, while we yet remained on the
scene (though a trifle delayed by fruitless spooring) had already been
attacked and torn open by a descending swarm of vultures. That, in
Africa, is a daily experience, but never, before or since, have we
witnessed such unseemly voracity in Europe.

MAJADA REAL.--This is the one lowland covert where shots are permissible
at incoming game. Being flanked on the west by gigantic sand-dunes, the
guns (under certain conditions) may be lined out a couple of miles away,
along the outskirts of the next nearest covert--the idea being to take
the stags as they canter across the intervening dunes. The conditions
referred to are (1) a straight east wind, and (2) reliable guns.
Obviously the element of _danger_ under this plan is vastly increased,
and as the keepers are responsible for any accident, they are reluctant
to execute the drive thus save only when their confidence in the guns is
complete.[15] A careless man on a grouse-drive is dangerous enough; but
here, with rifle-bullets, a reckless shot may spell death. The
"in-drive," nevertheless, is both curious and interesting. A spectacle
one does not forget is afforded when the far-away skyline of dazzling
sand is suddenly surmounted by spreading antlers, and some great hart,
perhaps a dozen of them, come trotting all unconscious directly towards
the eager eyes watching and waiting. The effect of a shot under these
conditions is frequently to turn the game off at right angles. The deer
then hold a course parallel with the covert-side, thus running the
gauntlet of several guns, and the question of "first blood" may become a
moot point--easily determined, however, by reference to the spoor. Boar
naturally are averse to take such open ground; but when severely
pressed, we have on occasion seen them scurrying across these Saharan
sands, a singular sight under the midday sun.

To introspective minds two points may have showed up in these rough
outline illustrations. First, that the best stags are ever the earliest
amove when danger threatens. These not seldom escape ere a slovenly
gunner is aware that the beat has begun. The moral is clear. Secondly,
as these bigger and older beasts exhibit fraternal tendencies, it
follows that a first chance (whether availed or bungled) need not
necessarily be the last.

Besides deer, it is quite usual that wild-boar, as well as lynxes and
other minor animals, come forward on these "drives." The divergent
nature of pig, however, renders a more specialised system advisable
when wild-boar only are the objective. For whereas the aboriginal stag
seeking a "lie-up" wherein to pass the daylight hours was satisfied by
any sequestered spot that afforded shelter and shade from the sun, that
was never the case with the jungle-loving boar. To the stag strong
jungle and heavy brushwood were ever abhorrent, handicapping his light
build and branching antlers. Clumps of tall reed-grass or three-foot
rushes, a patch of cistus or rosemary, amply fulfilled his diurnal
ideals and requirements. Nowadays, it is true, the expanded sense of
danger, the increasing pressure of modern life--even cervine life--force
him to select strongholds which offer greater security though less
convenience. The wild-boar, on the reverse, with lower carriage and
pachydermatous hide, instinctively seeks the very heaviest jungle within
his radius--the more densely briar-matted and impenetrable the better he
loves it.

Many such holts--some of them may be but a few yards in extent--are
necessarily passed untried both by dogs and men when engaged in
"driving" extended areas, sometimes miles of consecutive forest and
covert. The somnolent boar hears the passing tumult, lifts a grisly
head, grunts an angry soliloquy, and goes to sleep again, secure.
Another day you have returned expressly to pay specific attention to
him. In brief space he has diagnosed the difference in attack. Instantly
that boar is alert, ready to repel or scatter the enemy, come who may,
on two legs or four.

[Illustration: HOOPOES

On the lawn at Jerez, March 19, 1910.]




From one's earliest days the wild-boar has been invested with a sort of
halo of romance, identified in youthful mind with grim courage and brute
strength. Perhaps his grisly front, the vicious bloodshot eyes, savage
snorts, and generally malignant demeanour, lend substance to such idea.
But even among adults there exists in the popular mind a strange mixture
of misconception as between big game and dangerous game--to hundreds the
terms are synonymous. Thus a lady, inspecting our trophies, exclaimed,
"Oh, Mr.----, aren't these beasts very treacherous?" which almost
provoked the reply, "You see, we are even more treacherous!"

In sober truth, nevertheless, a big old boar when held up at bay, or
charging in headlong rushes upon the dogs, his wicked eyes flashing
fire, and foam flying from his jaws as tushes clash and champ, presents
as pretty a picture of brute-fury and pluck as even a world-hunter may
wish to enjoy.

Yet among hundreds of boars that we have killed or seen killed (though
dogs are caught continually, and occasionally a horse), there has never
occurred a serious accident to the hunter, and only a few narrow

As an example of the latter: the keeper, while "placing" the writer
among bush-clad dunes outside the Mancha of Majada Real, mentioned that
a very big boar often frequented some heavy rush-beds on my front.
"Should the dogs give tongue to pig at that point, your Excellency will
at once run in to the function." Such were his instructions.

[Illustration: ROOM FOR TWO]

At the point indicated the dogs bayed unmistakably, and seizing a light
single carbine, ·303 (as there was a stretch of heavy sand to cover) I
ran in. Arriving at the covert and already close up to the music,
suddenly the "bay" broke, and I felt the bitter annoyance of being
twenty seconds too slow. I had entered by a narrow game-path, and was
still hurrying up this when I met the flying boar face to face. By
chance he had selected the same track for his retreat! As we both were
moving, and certainly not six yards apart, there was barely time to pull
off the carbine in the boar's face and throw myself back against the
wall of matted jungle on my left. Next moment the grizzly head and
curving ivories flashed past within six inches of my nose! The spring he
had given carried the boar a yard past me, and there he stopped,
stern-on, champing and grunting, both tushes visible--I could see them
in horrid projection, on either side of the snout! I had brought the
empty carbine to the "carry," so as to use it bayonet-wise, to ward the
brute off my legs; but he remained stolidly where he had stopped, and,
as may be imagined, I stood stolid too. As it proved, the bullet,
entering top of shoulder, had traversed the vitals--hence the cessation
of hostilities. A few moments later the arrival of the dogs terminated
an untoward interval.

On another occasion at the Veta de las Conchas, amidst the lovely
_pinales_, just as the beat was concluded, there dashed from a small
thicket a troop of a dozen pig, making direct for the solitary pine
behind which the writer held guard. Passing full broadside, at thirty
yards the biggest dropped dead on the sand, and, just as the troop
disappeared in a donga, a second, it seemed, was knocked over. On the
beaters approaching I walked across to see, and there, in the hollow,
lay the second pig apparently dead enough. Having picked up my
field-glasses, cartridge-pouch, etc., I stood close by awaiting the
keeper's arrival. Three or four dogs, however, following on the spoor,
arrived first; and on their worrying the deceased, it at once sprang to
its feet, gazed for one instant, and charged direct. Never have I seen
an animal cover twenty yards more quickly! Dropping the handful of
_chismes_ aforesaid, I pulled off an unaimed cartridge in my assailant's
face and a lucky bullet struck rather below the eyes. This is not a dead
shot, but the shock at that short distance proved sufficient.

An amusing incident, not dissimilar, occurred at Salavar. A youthful
sportsman was approaching a boar which had fallen and lay apparently
dead, when it, too, suddenly sprang up and charged. Our friend turned
and fled; but, tripping over a fallen branch, fell headlong amidst the
green rushes. There, face-downwards, he lay, preferring, as he explained
later, "to receive his wound behind rather than have his face messed
about by a boar!" Luckily the animal, on losing sight of its flying foe,
pulled up and stood, grunting surprise and disapproval.

A similar experience befell King Alfonso XIII. in this Mancha of
Salavar, December 29, 1909. We need not tell English readers that His
Majesty proved equal to this, as to every occasion, and dropped his
adversary at arm's length.

When one reads (as we do) descriptions of big-game hunting, a recurring
expression gives pause--that of "charging." A recent discussion in a
sporting paper turned on the question of "the best weapon for a charging
boar." Now such a thing as a "charging boar" has never, in a long
experience, occurred to the authors--that is, a boar charging
deliberately, and of its own initiative, upon human beings; and we do
not believe in the possibility of such an event. Of course should a boar
(or any other savage animal) be disabled, or in a corner, that is a
different matter--then a wild-boar will fight, and right gallantly too.

The nearest approach to a "charge" (though it wasn't one really)
occurred at the Rincon de los Carrizos. Towards the end of the beat the
dogs ran a pig, and, seeing it was a big one, the writer followed, and
after a spin of 300 yards overtook the boar at bay in a deep water-hole.
The place was all overhung with heavy foliage and thick pines above,
giving very poor light. Though the boar's snout pointed straight towards
me about ten yards away, I imagined (wrongly) that his body stood at an
angle--about one-third broadside: hence the bullet (aimed past the ear),
splashed harmlessly in the water, and next moment the pig was coming
straight as a die, apparently meaning mischief. When within five yards,
however, he jinked sharply to right, passing full broadside, when I
killed him _á-boca-jarro_, as the phrase runs, "at the mouth of the


That idea of "charging at large" is so splendidly romantic, and fits in
so appropriately with preconceived ideas, that we almost regret to
disturb its semi-fossilised acceptance. But, in mere fact, neither boars
nor any other wild beasts "charge" at sight--always and only excepting
elephant and rhinoceros, either of which _may_ (or may not) do so,
though previously unprovoked. It would, at least, be unwise entirely to
ignore the contingency of either of these two so acting.

There exist, nevertheless, old and evil-tempered boars that are quite
formidable adversaries. We have many such in our Coto Doñana--boars
that, having once overmastered our hounds, practically defy us. Each of
these old solitary tuskers occupies some densely briared stronghold--it
may be but an isolated patch of jungle, scarce half an acre in extent,
or alternatively, a little sequence of similar thickets, each connected
by intervals of lighter bush. Such spots abound by the hundred, but once
the lair of our bristled friend is found, then there is work cut out for
man, horse, and hound. For long-drawn-out minutes the silence of the
wilderness re-echoes with doubly concentrated fury--frantic hound-music
mingled with lower accompaniment of sullen, savage snorts and grunts and
the champing of tusks; then a sharp crunch of breaking boughs ... and
the death-yell of a _podenco_ tells that _that_ blow has got home. But
the seat of war remains unchanged--the same rush and the same fatal
result are repeated. Presently some venturous hound may discover an
entry from behind. The enemy's flank is turned, and with a crash that
seems to shake the very earth, our boar retreats to a second stronghold
only twenty yards away. All this is occurring within arm's length; one
hears, can almost feel, the stress of mortal combat, but one sees
nothing inside the mural foliage, nor knows what moment the enemy may
sally forth. Such moments may even excite what are termed in Spanish
phrase "emotions."

In his second "Plevna" our boar is secure, and he knows it. With rear
and flanks protected by a _revêtement_ of gnarled roots and a labyrinth
of stems, he fears nothing behind, while the furiously baying hounds on
his front he now utterly despises. Blank shots fired in the air alarm
him not, nor will Pepe Espinal--in a service of danger--succeed in
dislodging him with a _garrocha_, after a perilous climb along the
briar-matted roof. That boar is victor--master of a stricken field.

One human resource remains, to go in _á arma blanca_--with the cold
steel. There are dashing spirits who will do this--in Spain we have seen
such. But to crawl thus, prostrate, into the dark and gloomy tunnels
that form a wild-boar's fortress, intercepted and obstructed on every
side, there to attack in single combat a savage beast, still unhurt and
in the flush of victory, pachydermatous, and whose fighting weight far
exceeds your own--well, _that_ we place in the category of pure
recklessness. Courage is a quality that all admire, though one may
wonder if it is not sometimes over-esteemed, when we find it possessed
in common, not only by very many wild-beasts, but even by savage races
of human kind--races which we regard as "lower," yet not inferior in
that cherished quality of "pluck."

Before you crawl in there, stop to think of the annoyance the act may
cause not merely to our hunt, but possibly to a wife, otherwise to
sisters, friends, or hospital nurses, even, it may be, to an
undertaker--though he will not object.

Once victorious over canine foes, it will be a remote chance indeed that
that boar, unless caught by mishap in some carelessly chosen lair, will
ever again show up as a mark for the fore-sight of a rifle.

After one such rout, we remember finding our friend the Reverend Father,
who had sallied forth with us for a mild morning's shooting, perched
high up among the branches of a thorny _sabina_ (a kind of juniper),
whence we rescued him, cut and bleeding, and badly "shaken in nerve!"

We add the following typical instances of boar-shooting:--

SALAVAR, _February 1, 1900_.--A lovely winter's morn, warm sun and dead
calm. The distant cries of the beaters (nigh three miles away) had just
reached my ears, when a nearer sound riveted attention--the soft patter
of hoofs upon sand. Then from the forest-slope behind appeared a
pig--big and grey--trotting through deep rushes some forty yards away.
Already the fore-sight was "touching on" its neck, when a lucky
suspicion of striped piglings following their mother arrested the ball.
Next came along a gentle hind with all her infinite grace of contour and
carriage. At twenty-five yards she faced full round, and for long
seconds we stared eye to eye. Curious it is that absolute quiescence
will puzzle the wildest of the wild! Hardly had she vanished 'midst
forest shades, than once again that muffled patter--this time an
unmistakable tusker. But, oh! what an abominable shot I made--too low,
too far back--and onwards he pursued his course. By our forest laws it
was my _deber_ (bounden duty) to follow the stricken game. All that
noontide, all the afternoon--through bush and brake, by dell and dusky
defile--patiently, persistently, did Juanillo Espinal and I follow every
twist and turn of that unending spoor. There was blood to help us at
first, none thereafter. Through the thickets of Sabinal, then back on
the left by Maë-Corra, forward through the Carrizal, thence crossing the
Corral Grande, and away into the great _pinales_ beyond--away to the
Rincon de los Carrizos, three solid leagues and a bit to spare! That was
the price of a bungled shot.

Here at last we have tracked him to his lair. Within that sullen
fortress of the Rincon lies our wounded boar. How to get him out is a
different problem. Though wounded, he is in no way disabled, and is
ready, aye "spoiling," to put up a savage fight for his life. Having
precisely located him in a dense tangle of lentisk and briar, our single
dog, Careto, a tall, shaggy _podenco_, not unlike a deerhound, but on
smaller scale, is let go. Up a gloomy game-path he vanishes, and in a
moment fierce music startles the silent woods. The boar refused to move.
But one resource remained. We must go in to help Careto, crawling up a
briar-laced tunnel. It was horribly dark at first, and I began to think
of ... when, fortunately, the light improved, and a few yards farther in
a savage scene was enacting in quite a considerable open. Beneath its
brambled roof we could stand half upright. In its farthest corner stood
our boar at bay, a picture of sullen ferocity. Upon Juanillo's
appearance the scene changed as by magic--there was a rush and
resounding crash. Precisely what happened during the three succeeding
seconds deponent could not see, it being so gloomy, and Juanillo on my
front. Ere a cartridge could be shoved into the breech the great boar
was held up, Careto hanging on to his right ear, and Juanillo, springing
over the dog, had seized the grisly beast by both hind-legs--at the
hocks--and stepping backward, with one mighty heave flung the boar
sidelong on the earth. Next moment I had driven the knife through his

Though the method described is regularly employed by Spanish hunters to
seize and capture a wounded or "bayed" boar--and we have seen it
executed dozens of times--yet seldom in such a spot as this, cramped in
space, handicapped by bad light and intercepting boughs and briars. It
was a dramatic scene, and a bold act that bespoke cool head and brawny

The head of this boar hangs on our walls to commemorate an event we are
not likely to forget.

We remember following a wounded lynx into a similar spot--a deep
hollowed jungle. A pandemonium of savage snarling and spitting, barks
and yowls greeted our ears as we crawled in, while on reaching the
cavern the green eyes of the lynx flashed like electric lights from a
dark recess. Though one hind-leg had been broken and the other damaged
by a rifle-ball, yet she held easy mastery over five or six dogs.
Sitting bolt upright, she kept the lot at bay with sweeping half-arm
blows. Not a dog dared close, and the brave feline had to be finished
with the lance.

MANCHA DEL MILAGRO, _February 4, 1908_.--The covert, we knew by spoor,
held a first-rate boar, and his most probable _salida_ (break-out) was
at the foot of a perpendicular sand-wall, within fifty yards of which
the writer held guard. Within brief minutes the music of the pack
corroborated what had been foretold by spoor. Twice the boar with
crashing course encircled the _mancha_ within, passing close inside my
post. Each moment I watched for his appearance at the expected point on
the right. Then, without notice or sound of broken bough, suddenly he
stood outside on the left--almost beneath the gun's muzzle--not eight
feet away. Luckily (as he stood within my firing-lines) the boar
steadfastly gazed in the opposite direction, nor did I seek by slightest
movement to attract attention to my presence. For some seconds we both
remained thus, rigid. Then with sudden decision the boar bounded off,
flying the gentle slope in front, and ere he had passed a yard clear of
the firing-line, fell dead with a bullet placed in the precise spot.

Weight, 164 lbs. clean, and grey as a donkey.

       *       *       *       *       *

A wounded boar should always be approached with caution. Remember he is
a powerful brute, very resolute, and furnished with quite formidable
armament, which, while life remains, he will use. One of the biggest,
after receiving a bullet slightly below and behind the heart, went
slowly on some fifty yards, when he subsided, back up, among some green
iris. Half an hour later the writer silently approached from directly
behind. At ten yards the heaving flanks showed that plenty of life
remained, and beautiful scimitar-like tushes were conspicuous enough on
either side. I therefore quietly withdrew. On a keeper presently riding
up, the boar at once dashed on a dog, flung him aside (laying open half
his ribs), and charged the horse. The latter was smartly handled and
cleared, when the boar instantly turned on me. The dash of that onset
was splendid to watch. Luckily he had a yard or two of soft bog to get
through, but it was necessary to stop him with another bullet.

Impressive is the mental sensation aroused when any savage
wild-beast--normally the object of pursuit--suddenly turns the tables
and becomes the aggressor. The actual incident is necessarily but
momentary, yet its effect remains graven on the tablets of memory. Pity
'tis so rare.

Again we conclude with an independent impression by J. C. C.:--

     Never a visit to the Coto Doñana but brings some separate
     experience--possibly more pleasurable in retrospect than reality! I
     will instance my first interview with wild-boars. Now, of course, I
     know more about them and can almost regard them with serenity; but
     at that time, believe me, it was not so. That first encounter at
     really close quarters occurred at the close of a long day's work.
     My post was behind a twelve-inch pine on an otherwise bare hill,
     the reverse slope of which dipped down to dense bamboo-thickets
     just out of my sight, though close by. Within a few minutes
     commenced and continued the hullabaloo of hounds. Close glued to my
     pine-trunk I listened in tense excitement. Suddenly, ere I had
     quite realised such possibility, there rushed into view on the
     ridge, not twenty paces distant, a great shaggy grey boar. He had
     dashed up the steep bank beyond and was now making direct for my
     legs. This is not the confession of a nervous man, but it did occur
     to me that truer safety lay in the _fork_ of my tree! but B. was
     the next gun, only sixty or seventy yards away, and keenly
     interested. In a moment I was myself again; but the interval had
     been, to say the least, painfully enthralling. I had, of course, to
     wait till the great "Havato" had crossed my "firing-lines." He
     certainly saw _something_, for he paused momentarily, took rapid
     counsel, and bolted past. Nerves were steady now, and once across
     the line the boar had my right in the ribs, left in flank. I
     actually saw blood spurt--hair fly--at each shot, yet the boar
     followed on his course unmoved. Pachydermatous pig! I pondered
     while reloading. Ten seconds later on my boar's sleuth follows
     _Boca-Negra_, a veritable Beth Gelert. Utterly ignoring me, he
     passes away into gloom and silence; but shortly I see him coming
     back, blood-stained and satiated, and my self-respect returns. Ten
     minutes later, a second tusker gallops along the hollow behind. Him
     also my right caught fair in the ribs--only a few inches left of
     the heart, yet again without visible result. The second bullet,
     however, broke his spine as he ascended the sand-bank beyond, and
     he fell stone dead. When the beat was over we followed No. 1. He
     also lay still, 200 yards away--a pair of first-rate tuskers.

     I remember, during the gralloch, some dreadfully poor
     charcoal-burners appearing on the scene to beg for food. This, of
     course, was gladly conceded; but so famished were those poor
     creatures that old women filled their aprons with reeking viscera,
     while it was with difficulty that children could be prevented from
     starting at once on raw flesh and liver. Truly it was a grievous
     spectacle, and filled the homeward ride with sad reflections on the
     awful hardships such poor folk are destined to endure.

[Illustration: BOLTED PAST]

In days of rapid change, when, in our own generation, sporting weapons
have been at least thrice utterly metamorphosed, it is unwise to be
dogmatic. Yet we may summarise our personal experience that the most
efficient weapon for all such purposes as here described is that known
as the "Paradox," or at least of the Paradox type. The old "Express
rifle" (the best in its day, less than a score of years ago, but now
mere "scrap") was also useful. But it always fell second to the Paradox,
as the latter (being really a shot-gun, equally available for small
game, snipe, duck, or geese) came up quicker to the eye for
snap-shooting with ball.

The invention of the Paradox type of gun has practically introduced a
third style of shooting where there previously existed only two, to

(1) Gun-shooting with _shot_ where any "aim" or even an apology for an
aim is fatal to modern maximum success.

(2) Rifle-shooting proper, which must be mechanical and deliberate--the
more so, the more effective.

(3) Thirdly, we have this new system intermediate between the
two--"gun-shooting with ball."

Using the Paradox as a rifle, an alignment _must_ be taken; but it may
be taken as with a _gun_, and not necessarily the deliberate and
mechanical alignment essential with a rifle, properly so called.

In short, with a Paradox, always glance along the sights. You will
nearly always find that some "refinement" of aim is required. More words
are useless.

One word as to the "forward allowance" needed after the rough alignment
(as explained) has been effected. At short snapshot ranges none is
required. At a galloping stag at 50 yards, the sights should clear his
chest; at 100 yards, half-a-length ahead, and double that for 150 yards.
At these longer ranges one instinctively allows for "drop" by taking a
fuller sight. For standing shots, of course, the back-sights can be


"_Caceria á la Ronda._"

This picturesque and altogether break-neck style of hunting the boar--a
style perhaps more consonant than "driving" with popular notions of the
dash and chivalry of Spanish character--still survives in the wild
province of Estremadura. No species of sport in our experience will
compare with the _Ronda_ for danger and sheer recklessness unless it be
that of "riding lions" to a stand, as practised on British East African

Years ago we described this system of the _Ronda_ in the "Big-Game"
volumes of the Badminton Library, and here write a new account,
correcting some slight errors which had crept into the earlier article.

This sport is practised by moonlight at that period of the autumn called
the _Montanera_, when acorns and chestnuts fall from the trees, and
when droves of domestic swine are turned loose into the woods to feed on
these wild fruits. At that date the wild-boars also are in the habit of
descending from the adjacent sierras, and wander far and wide over the
wooded plains in search of that favourite food.

When the acorns fall thus and ripe chestnuts strew the ground in these
magnificent Estremenian forests, the young bloods of the district
assemble to await the arrival of the boars upon the lower ground. Two
kinds of dog are employed: the ordinary _podencos_, which run free; and
the _alanos_, a breed of rough-haired "seizers," crossed between
bull-dog and mastiff--these latter being held in leash.

Sallying forth at midnight, so soon as the _podencos_ give tongue, the
_alanos_ are slipped in order to "hold-up" the flying boar till the
horsemen can reach the spot.

Then for a while hound-music frightens the darkness and shocks the
silence of the sleeping woods; there is crashing among dry forest-scrub,
a breakneck scurry of mounted men among the timber, until the furious
baying of the hounds and the noisy rush of the hunters converge towards
one dark point among the shadows, and in the half-light a great grisly
tusker dies beneath the cold steel, but not before he has written a
lasting record on the hide of some luckless hound.

A stiff neck and bold heart are essential to these dare-devil gallops,
where each horse and horseman vie in reckless rivalry, flying through
bush and brake, and under overhung boughs difficult to distinguish amid
moon-rays intercepted by foliage above. Accidents of course occur--an
odd collar-bone or two hardly count, but what does annoy is when by
mistake some wretched beast of domestic race is found held up by the
excited pack.





Pilgrimages by the pious to distant shrines are a well-known phase in
the faith both of the Moslem and of the Romish Church, and require no
definition by us; but one that is yearly performed to a tiny and
isolated shrine not a dozen miles from our shooting-lodge of Doñana
deserves description.

First as to its origin. Twelve hundred years ago when Arab conquerors
overran Spain much treasure of the churches, with many sacred emblems,
relics, etc., were hurriedly concealed in places of safety. But not
unnaturally, since Moorish domination extended over 700 years, all trace
or record of such hiding-places had long been lost, and it was merely by
chance and one by one that, after the Reconquest, the hidden treasures
were rediscovered.

The story of the recovery of our Lady of the Dew is related to have
occurred in this wise. A shepherd tending his flocks in the
neighbourhood of Almonte was induced by the strangely excited barking of
his dog to force a way into the dense thickets known as La Rocina de la
Madre (a wooded swamp, famous as a breeding-place of the smaller herons,
egrets, and ibises), in the midst of which the dog led him to an ancient
hollowed tree. Here, half-hidden in the cavernous trunk, the shepherd
espied the figure of "a Virgin of rare beauty and of exquisite carving,"
clothed in a tunic of what had been white linen, but now stained dull
green through centuries of exposure to the weather and dew (_rocío_).

Overjoyed, the shepherd, bearing the Virgin on his shoulders, set out
for Almonte, distant three leagues; but being overcome by fatigue and
the weight of his burden, he lay down to rest by the way and fell
asleep. On awakening he found the Virgin had gone--she had returned to
her hollow tree. Having ascertained this, and being now filled with
fear, he proceeded alone to Almonte, where he reported his discovery. At
once the Alcalde and clergy accompanied him to the spot, and finding the
image as related, a vow was then and there solemnised that a shrine,
dedicated to N. S. del Rocío, should be erected at the very spot.

On its being discovered that this Virgin was able to perform miracles
and to grant petitions, her fame soon spread afar, and religious fervour
waxed strong. Thus during the plague of 1649-50, the Virgin having been
removed to Almonte as a safeguard, the inhabitants of that place were
immune from the pestilence, though every other hamlet was decimated. A
second miracle was attributed to the Virgin. Hard by the shrine at Rocío
was a spring of water, but of such poor supply that ordinarily a single
man could empty it within two hours: yet during the three days of the
pilgrimage thousands of men and their horses could all assuage their

Owing to these manifestations devout persons endowed the Virgin of Rocío
with considerable sums of money, with which a larger shrine was built,
while sumptuous garments, laces, and embroidery, with jewelry and
precious stones, were provided for her adornment. In addition to this,
Replicas of the original effigy were made and distributed around the
villages of the neighbourhood, particularly the following:--

  Palma,      distant    32
  Moguer         "       30
  Umbrete        "       45
  Huelva         "       65
  Triana         "       76
  Rota           "       55
  San Lucar      "       45
  Villamanrique  "       18
  Pilas          "       23
  Almonte        "       17
  Coria          "       44

At each of these and other places, "Brotherhoods" (_Hermandades_),
affiliated to the original at Rocío, were established to guard these
effigies; and it is from these points that every Whitsuntide the various
pilgrim-fraternities journey forth across the wastes towards Rocío, each
Brotherhood bringing its own carved replica to pay its annual homage to
its carved prototype.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the spring of 1910 the authors attended the _Fiesta_. Already, the
night before, premonitory symptoms--the tuning-up of fife and drum--had
been audible, and during the twelve-mile ride next morning fresh
contingents winding through the scrub-clad plain were constantly
sighted, all converging upon Rocío. It was not, however, till reaching
that hamlet that the full extent of the pilgrimage became apparent, and
a striking and characteristic spectacle it formed. From every point of
the compass were descried long files of white-tilted
ox-waggons--hundreds of them--slowly advancing across the flower-starred
plain; the waggons all bedecked in gala style, crammed to the last seat
with guitar-touching girls, with smiling duennas and attendant squires;
the ox-teams gaily caparisoned, and escorted by prancing cavaliers, many
with wife or daughter mounted pillion-wise behind, while younger
pilgrims challenged impromptu trials of speed--a series of minor
steeplechases. There were four-in-hand brakes, mule-teams and
donkey-carts, pious pedestrians--a motley parade enveloped in clouds of
dust and noise, but all in perfect order.

The following quaint description was written down for us by a Spanish
friend who accompanied us:--

     It is at the entry of the various processions that the most
     striking and picturesque effects are produced by the cavalcade.
     Here one sees displayed the grace and ability of the Amazon--the
     robust and comely Andalucian maiden, carried _á ancas_
     (pillion-wise) at the back of his saddle by gallant cavalier proud
     of his gentle companion, and exhibiting to advantage his skill in
     horsemanship. The noble steed, conscious of its onerous part,
     carries the double burden with care and spirit, being trained to
     curvet and rear in all the bravery of mediæval and Saracenic age.

About 4 P.M., while the converging caravans were yet a mile or so
afield, all halted, each to organise its own procession, and each headed
by the waggon bearing its own Virgin bedecked in gorgeous apparels of
silk and silver braid. Then to the accompaniment of bands and
bell-ringing, hand-clapping and castanets, drum, tambourine, and guitar,
with flags flying and steeds curvetting, this singular combination of
religious rite with musical fantasia resumed its advance into the

Despite the dust and crush not a unit but held its assigned position,
and thus--one long procession succeeding another--the whole concourse
filed into the village, crossed its narrow green, and sought the shrine
where, within the open doors, the Virgin of Rocío, removed from the
altar, was placed to receive the homage of the Brotherhoods. As each
Replica reached the spot, its bearers halted and knelt, while expert
drivers even made their ox-teams kneel down in submission before the
"Queen of Heaven and Earth." There was but a moment's delay, nor did
castanets and song cease for an instant. Later in the evening came the
processions of the Rosario, when each of the visiting Brotherhoods make
a ceremonious call upon the Senior Brother--that is, the Hermit of
Rocío--after which each confraternity, with less ceremony but more
joviality, visited the camps of the others. This last was accompanied by
bands, massed choirs, and _fireworks_. Then the festival resolved
itself, so far as we could judge, into a purely secular
affair--feasting, merry-making, dancing, till far on in the night.

Rain had set in at dusk and was now falling fast. Rocío is but a tiny
hamlet--say two score of humble cots--yet to-night 6000 people occupied
it, the womenfolk sleeping inside their canvas-tilted ox-waggons, the
men lying promiscuously on the ground beneath.

Sunday is occupied with religious ceremonies, beginning with High Mass.
These we will not attempt to describe--nor could we if we would. The
Spanish friend who at our request jotted down some notes on the _Fiesta_
uses the following expressions:--

     The days of the Rocío are days of expansion, merry-making,
     animation. Never, throughout the festival, ceases the laughter of
     joyous voices, the clang of the castanets, the melody of guitar and
     tambourine. Dances, song, and music, with jovial intercourse and
     good fellowship, all unite to preserve unflagging the rejoicing
     which is cultivated at that beautiful spot. At this festival many
     traders assist with different installations, including jewellers in
     the porch of the church, vendors of medallions, photographs,
     coloured ribbons, and other articles dedicated to the patroness of
     a festival which is well worthy a visit for its originality and

On the Monday morning, after joint attendance of all the Brotherhoods at
Mass, followed by a sermon, the image of the Virgin is formally replaced
upon the altar (the feet resting upon the same hollow trunk in which the
figure was first found), then the processions are reformed and the long
homeward journey to their respective destinations begins.

Although many thousands of people yearly attend this festival, all
entirely uncontrolled by any authority, yet quarrels and disturbance are
unknown. The mere cry of "viva la Virgen" suffices at once to appease
incipient angers, should such arise. Thousands of horses and donkeys,
moreover, are allowed to roam about untended and unguarded, as there is
no danger of their being stolen.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Virgin of the Rocío, it appears, specialises in accidents, and many
votive pictures hung within the shrine illustrate the nature of her
miracles. One man is depicted falling headlong from a fifth-storey
window, another from a lofty pine, a third drowning in a torrential
flood; a lady is thrown by a mule, another run over by a cart, a lad
caught by an infuriated bull; a beatific-looking person stands harmless
amidst fiery forked lightning--apparently enjoying it. From all these
and other appalling forms of death, the survivors, having been saved by
the Virgin's miraculous interposition, have piously contributed
pictorial evidence of the various occurrences.

A somewhat gruesome relic records the incident that a mother having
vowed that should her daughter be restored to life, she should walk to
Rocío in her grave-clothes--and there the said clothes lie as evidence
of that miracle.

The festival above described is celebrated each spring at Pentecost.
There is, however, a second yearly pilgrimage into Rocío which
originated in this wise.

In 1810 when the French occupied this country, the village of Almonte
was held by two troops of cavalry who were engaged in impressing
recruits from among the neighbouring peasantry. These naturally objected
to serve the enemy, but many were terrorised into obedience. Bolder
spirits there were, however, and these, to the number of thirty-six,
resolved to strike a blow for freedom. Having assembled in the thick
woods outside Almonte, at two o'clock one afternoon they fell upon the
unsuspecting French and, ere these could defend themselves, many were
killed and others made prisoners. Finally the French commander was shot
dead on his own doorstep. "The villagers of Almonte were horrified at
what had occurred, for, although they had had no hand in the matter,
they felt sure they would have to bear the blame"--so runs a Spanish

The few French troopers who had escaped fled to Seville, reported the
affair, and (wrongly) incriminated the villagers of Almonte--precisely
as those worthies had foreseen. The General commanding at Seville
ordered that Almonte should be razed to the ground and its inhabitants
beheaded--that being the penalty decreed by Murat for any shedding of
French blood. A detachment of dragoons, despatched to Almonte, had
already taken prisoner the mayor, the priests, and all the chief
inhabitants preparatory to their execution. In this grave situation they
bethought themselves to pray to the Virgin of Rocío, promising that if
she would rescue them from their deadly peril, they would institute a
new pilgrimage to her shrine for thanksgiving.

Already the detachment of French soldiers detailed to carry out the
executions had reached Pilas, a village within six leagues of Almonte,
when, by mere coincidence, a handful of Spanish troops flung themselves
against the French positions at Seville. The French, thinking that their
assailants must be the forerunners of a larger army, hurriedly recalled
all their outposts, including those commissioned to destroy Almonte!

Thus the wretched Alcalde and his fellow-prisoners were saved; for,
their innocence of the "crime" being presently established, the town was
let off with a fine. Since then, in accordance with the promise made 100
years ago, the whole of Almonte repairs every 7th of August to the
shrine of Nuestra Señora del Rocío.

[Illustration: PRAYING MANTIS (_Mantis religiosa_)]




From Seville to the Atlantic the great river Guadalquivír pursues its
course through seventy miles of alluvial mud-flats entirely of its own
construction. The whole of this viewless waste (in winter largely
submerged) is technically termed the marisma; but its upper regions,
slightly higher-lying, have proved amenable to a limited dominion of
man, and nowadays comprise (besides some rich corn-lands) broad
pasturages devoted to grazing, and which yield _Toros bravos_, that is,
fighting-bulls of breeds celebrated throughout Spain, as providing the
popular champions of the Plaza.

[Illustration: AVOCET]

It is not of these developed regions that we treat, but of the Lower
Delta, which still remains a wilderness, and must for centuries remain
so--a vast area of semi-tidal saline ooze and marsh, extending over some
forty or fifty miles in length, and spreading out laterally to untold
leagues on either side of the river.

This Lower Delta, the marisma proper, while it varies here and there by
a few inches in elevation, is practically a uniform dead-level of
alluvial mud, only broken by _vetas_, or low grass-grown ridges seldom
rising more than a foot or two above the flat, and which vary in extent
from a few yards to hundreds of acres. The precise geological cause of
these _vetas_ we know not; but the calcareous matter of which they are
composed--the debris of myriad disintegrated sea-shells, mostly
bivalves--proves that the ocean at an earlier period held sway, till
gradually driven backwards by the torrents of alluvial matter carried
down by the river, and finally forced behind the vast sand-barrier now
known as the Coto Doñana--the buffer called into being whilst age-long
struggles raged between these two opposing forces. The fact is further
evidenced by the salt crust which yearly forms on the surface of the
lower marisma when the summer sun has evaporated its waters.

In summer the marisma is practically a sun-scorched mud-flat; in winter
a shallow inland sea, with the _vetas_ standing out like islands.

There are, as already stated, slight local variations in elevation.
Naturally the lower-lying areas are the first to retain moisture so soon
as the long torrid summer has passed away and autumn rains begin.
Speedily these become shallow lagoons, termed _lucios_--similar, we
imagine, to the _jheels_ of India--and a welcome haven they afford to
the advance-guard of immigrant wildfowl from the north.

Plant-life in the marismas is regulated by the relative saltness of the
soil. In the deeper _lucios_ no vegetation can subsist; but where the
level rises, though but a few inches, and the ground is less saline, the
hardy samphire (in Spanish, _armajo_) appears, covering with its small
isolated bushes vast stretches of the lower marisma.

The _armajo_, which is formed of a congeries of fleshy twigs, leafless,
and jointed more like the marine _algae_ than a land-plant, belongs to
three species as follows:--

  (2) _Arthraenimum fruticosum_}
                                    } in Spanish, _Armajo_.
  (3) _Suaeda fruticosa_       }

All three belong to the natural order _Chenopodiaceae_ (or "Goose-foot"

The _armajo_ is the typical plant of the marisma, flourishing even where
there is a considerable percentage of salt in the soil. This aquatic
shrub increases most in dry seasons, a series of wet winters having a
disastrous effect on its growth. The _Sapina_, above mentioned, has a
curious effect when eaten by mares (which is often the case when other
food is scarce) of inducing a form of intoxication from which many die.
Indeed, the deaths from _Ensapinadas_ represent a serious loss to
horse-breeders whose mares are sent to graze in the marismas. Cattle are
not affected.

[Illustration: SAMPHIRE]

Formerly the _Sapina_ possessed a commercial value, being used (owing to
its alkaline qualities) in the manufacture of soap. Nowadays it is
replaced by other chemicals.

Here and there, owing to some imperceptible gradient, the marisma is
traversed by broad channels called _caños_, where, by reason of the
water having a definite flow, the soil has become less saline. The
_armajo_ at such spots becomes scarce or disappears altogether, its
place being taken by quite different plants, namely: Spear-grass
(_Cyperus_), _Candilejo_, _Bayunco_, the English names of which we do
not know.

Efforts have been made from time to time to reclaim and utilise portions
of the marisma by draining the water to the river; but failure has
invariably resulted for the following reasons:

(1) The intense saltness of the soil.

(2) That the marisma lies largely on a lower level than the river banks.

(3) The river being tidal, its water is salt or brackish.

There are vast areas of far better land in Spain which might be
reclaimed with certainty and at infinitely less cost.

The only human inhabitants of the marisma are a few herdsmen whose
reed-built huts are scattered on remote _vetas_. There are also the
professional wildfowlers with their _cabresto_-ponies; but this class is
disappearing as, bit by bit, the system of "preservation" extends over
the wastes. Though the climate is healthy enough except for a period
just preceding the autumn rains, yet our keepers and most of those who
live here permanently are terrible sufferers from malaria. Quinine, they
tell us, costs as much as bread in the family economy.

We quote the following impression from _Wild Spain_, p. 78:--





     The utter loneliness and desolation of the middle marismas call
     forth sensations one does not forget. Hour after hour one pushes
     forward across a 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 at farthest distance stand a herd of
     cattle--mere points in space; but these, too, partake of the
     general wildness and splash off at a gallop while yet a mile away.
     Even the wild-bred horses and ponies of the marisma revert to an
     aboriginal anthropophobia, and become as shy and timid as the
     _ferae naturae_ themselves. After long days in this monotony,
     wearied eyes at length rejoice at a vision of trees--a dark-green
     pine-grove casting grateful shade on scorching sands beneath. To
     that oasis we direct our course, but it proves 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

Such is the physical character of the marisma, so far as we can describe
it. The general landscape in winter is decidedly dreary and somewhat
deceptive, since the vast areas of brown _armajos_ lend an appearance of
dry land where none exists, since those plants are growing in, say, a
foot or two of water--"a floating forest paints the wave." The monotony
is broken at intervals by the reed-fringed _caños_, or sluggish
channels, and by the _lucios_, big and little--the latter partially
sprinkled with _armajo_-growth, the bigger sheets open water, save that,
as a rule, their surface is carpeted with wildfowl.

Should our attempted description read vague, we may plead that there is
nothing tangible to describe in a wilderness devoid of salient feature.
Nor can we liken it with any other spot, for nowhere on earth have we
met with a region like this--nominally dry all summer and inundated all
winter, yet subject to such infinite variation according to varying
seasons. It is not, however, the marisma itself that during all these
years has absorbed our interest and energies--no, that dreary zone would
offer but little attraction were it not for its feathered inhabitants.
These, the winter wildfowl, challenge the world to afford such display
of winged and web-footed folk, and it is these we now endeavour to

By mid-September, as a rule, the first signs of the approaching invasion
of north-bred wildfowl become apparent. But if, as often happens, the
long summer drought yet remains unbroken, these earlier arrivals,
finding the marisma untenable, are constrained to take to the river, or
to pass on into Africa.

Should the dry weather extend into October, the only ducks to remain
permanently in any great numbers are the teal, the few big ducks then
shot being either immature or in poor condition, from which it may be
inferred that the main bodies of all species have passed on to more
congenial regions.

About the 25th September the first greylag geese appear. These are not
affected by the scarcity of water in any such degree as ducks, since
they only need to drink twice a day, morning and evening, and make shift
to subsist by digging up the bulb-like roots of the spear-grass with
their powerful bills.

[Illustration: GREYLAG GEESE]

But so soon as autumn rains have fallen, and the whole marisma has
become supplied with "new water," it at once fills up with
wildfowl--ducks and geese--in such variety and prodigious quantities as
we endeavour to describe in the following sketches.


Wildfowl beyond all the rest of animated nature lend themselves to
spectacular display. For their enormous aggregations (due as much to
concentration within restricted haunts, as to gregarious instinct, and
to both these causes combined) are always openly visible and conspicuous
inasmuch as those haunts are, in all lands, confined to shallow water
and level marsh devoid of cover or concealment.

Thus, wherever they congregate in their thousands and tens of thousands,
wildfowl are always in view--that is, to those who seek them out in
their solitudes. This last, however, is an important proviso. For the
haunts aforesaid are precisely those areas of the earth's surface which
are the most repugnant to man, and least suited to his existence.

In crowded England there survive but few of those dreary estuaries
where miles of oozy mud-flats separate sea and land, treacherous of
foot-hold, exposed to tide-ways and to every gale that blows. Such only
are the haunts of British wildfowl, though how many men in a million
have ever seen them? To wilder Spain, with its 50 per cent of waste, and
its vast irreclaimed marismas, come the web-footed race in quantities
undreamt at home.

We have before attempted to describe such scenes, though a fear that we
might be discredited oft half paralysed the pen. An American critic of
our former book remarked that it "left the gaping reader with a feeling
that he had not been told half." That lurking fear could not be better
explained. A dread of Munchausenism verily gives pause in writing even
of what one has seen again and again, raising doubts of one's own
eyesight and of the pencilled notes that, year after year, we had
scrupulously written down on the spot.

The Baetican marisma has afforded many of those scenes of wild-life
that, for the reason stated, were before but half-described. With fuller
experience we return to the subject, though daring not entirely to
satisfy our trans-Atlantic friend.

The winter of 1896 provided such an occasion. It was on the 26th of
November that, under summer conditions, we rode out, where in other
years we have sailed, across what should have been water, but was now a
calcined plain.

November was nearly past; autumn had given place to winter, yet not a
drop of rain had fallen. Since the scorching days of July the fountains
of heaven had been stayed, and now the winter wildfowl from the north
had poured in only to find the marisma as hard and arid as the deserts
of Arabia Petraea. Instinct was at fault. True, each to their appointed
seasons, had come, the dark clouds of pintail, teal, and wigeon, the
long skeins of grey geese. Where in other years they had revelled in
shallows rich in aquatic vegetation, now the travellers find instead
nought but torrid plains devoid of all that is attractive to the tastes
of their tribe. For the parched soil, whose life-blood has been drained
by the heats of the summer solstice, whose plant-life is burnt up, has
remained panting all the autumn through for that precious moisture that
still comes not. The carcases of horses and cattle, that have died from
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.
The remainder crowd into the few places where the precious
element--water--still exists. Such are the rare pools that are fed from
quicksands (_nuclés_) or permanent land-springs (_ojos_) and a few of
the larger and deeper _lucios_ of the marisma.

Riding through stretches of shrivelled samphire we frequently spring
deer, driven out here, miles from their forest-haunts, by the eager
search for water.

[Illustration: WHITE-EYED POCHARD (_Fuligula nyroca_)]

Approaching the first of the great _lucios_, or permanent pools, a
wondrous sight lay before our eyes. This water might extend for three or
four miles, but was literally concealed by the crowds of flamingoes that
covered its surface. For a moment it was difficult to believe that those
pink and white leagues would really be all composed of living creatures.
Their identity, however, became clear enough when, within 600 yards, we
could distinguish the scattered outposts gradually concentrating upon
the solid ranks beyond. Disbelieve it if you will, but four fairly sane
Englishmen estimated that crowd, when a rifle-shot set them on wing, to
exceed ten thousand units--by how much, we decline to guess.

The nearer shores, with every creek and channel, were darkened by
masses of ducks, huddled together like dusky islets; while further away
several army-corps of geese were striving, with sonorous gabble, to tear
up tuberous roots of spear-grass (_castañuela_) from sun-baked mud.

It was a rifle-shot at these last that finally set the whole host on
wing--an indescribable spectacle, hurrying hordes everywhere outflanked
by the glinting black and pink glamour of flamingoes. Then the
noise--the reverberating roar of wings, blending with a babel of croaks
and gabblings, whistles and querulous pipes, punctuated by shriller
bi-tones, ... we give that up.

[Illustration: "FLAMINGOES OVER"]

A long ride in prospect precluded serious operations to-night, but
towards dusk we lined out our four guns, and in half an hour loaded up
the panniers of the carrier-ponies with nearly three score ducks and

An hour before the morning's dawn we were in position to await the
earliest geese. Experience had taught the chief flight-lines, and these,
over many miles of marsh, were commanded by lines of sunken tubs. These,
however, the exceptional conditions had rendered temporarily useless.
Our tubs lay miles from water; hence each man had to hide as best he
could, prostrate behind rush-tuft or twelve-inch samphire.

This morning, however, the greylags flew wide and scattered, in strange
contrast with their customary regularity. We noticed the change, but
knew not the cause. The geese did. The barometer during the night
(unnoticed by us at 4 A.M.) had gone down half an inch, and already, as
we assembled for breakfast at ten o'clock, rain was beginning to
fall--the first rain since the spring! The wind, which for weeks had
remained "nailed to the North--_norte clavado_," in Spanish phrase--flew
to all airts, and a change was at hand. By eleven there burst what the
Spanish well name a _tormenta_; lightning flashed from a darkened sky,
while thunder rolled overhead, and rain drove horizontal on a living
hurricane. An hour later the heavens cleared, and the sun was shining as
before. That short and sudden storm, however, had marked an epoch. The
whole conditions of bird-life in the marisma had been revolutionised
within a couple of hours.

[Illustration: POCHARD (_Fuligula ferina_)]

In other years, under such conditions as this morning had promised, we
have records of sixty and eighty greylags brought to bag, and it was
with such anticipation that we had set out to-day. The result totalled
but a quarter of such numbers.

Ducks came next in our programme, and the writer, being the last gun by
lot, had several miles to ride to his remote post at El Hondón. The
scenes in bird-life through which we rode amazed even accustomed eyes.
At intervals as we advanced across mud-flats clad in low growth of rush
and samphire, rose for a mile across our front such crowds of wigeon and
teal that the landscape ahead appeared a quivering horizon of wings that
shimmered like a heat-haze.

Crouching behind a low breastwork, before me lay a five-acre pool which
no amount of firing ever kept quite clear of swimming forms, so fast did
thirsty duck, teal, and geese keep dropping in, since behind for twenty
leagues stretched waterless plain.

Merely to make a bag under such conditions means taking every chance,
firing away till barrels grow too hot to hold. Here, however, that
nature-love that overrides even a fowler's keenness stepped in. With
half the wildfowl of Europe flashing, wheeling, and alighting within
view--many, one fondly imagined, likely to be of supreme interest--the
writer cannot personally go on taking single mallards, teal, or wigeon,
one after another in superb but almost monotonous rapidity. For the
moment, in fact, the naturalist supplants the gunner. True, this may be
sacrificing the mutton to the shadow, and this afternoon no special
prize rewarded self-denial in letting pass many a tempting chance.


For gratifying indeed to fowler's pride it is to pull down in falling
heap the smart pintails and brilliant shovelers, to bring off a
right-and-left at geese, though, it may be, one had first to let a cloud
of wigeon pass the silent muzzle. Such is individual taste, nor will the
memory of that afternoon ever fade, although my score, when at 3.30 P.M.
I was recalled, only totalled up to seventy-four ducks and four greylag

The recall was imperative, and I obeyed, though not without hesitation
and doubt. Could earth provide a better place? "Yes," replies Vasquez,
"in one hour the geese will be streaming in clouds up the Algaidilla and
Caño Juncero. Come! there's no time to lose." Within an hour we had
reached the spot. The water was four inches deep, with low cover of
rushes. The revolving stool stood too high, so I knelt in the shallow,
and within three minutes the first squad of geese came in quite
straight. One I took kneeling, but had to jump for the second. Just as
No. 2 collapsed, No. 1 caught me full amidships, knocking me sidelong
and, rebounding, upset the stool and the bag of cartridges thereon! A
nice mess, occurring at the very outset of one of those ambrosial
half-hours seldom realised outside of dreams. Quickly I dried the
cartridges as well as circumstances would admit, for pack after pack of
geese hurled themselves gaggling and honking right in my face, and
during the few brief minutes of the southern twilight, I reckoned I had
twenty-three down--seven right-and-lefts--though in the darkness only
seventeen could be gathered, the winged all necessarily escaping.


(Take the upper pair right-and-left, leaving the nearer geese for second

Within thirty-six hours we had secured sixty-two geese and over two
hundred ducks. For four guns, under favouring conditions, this would
have been no very special result; but to-day the fowl were all alert and
restless at the prospect of a coming change. The keynote had already
been sounded that first day, when the _tormenta_ burst, and when the
long drought ended on the very morning we had selected to commence our
operations. Had the weather held for a single week ... but why dwell on
it? The point must be clear enough. No more geese were got that year.
Let us conclude with a few ornithological observations made during
succeeding days. On November 30, after three days of stormy weather,
with tremendous bursts of rainfall, there commenced one of the most
remarkable bird-migrations we have witnessed. From early morn till night
(and all the following day) cloud upon cloud of ducks kept streaming
overhead from the westward. Frequently a score of packs would be in view
at once--never were the heavens clear; and all coming from precisely the
same direction and travelling in parallel lines to the east. Their
course seemed to indicate that these migrants (avoiding the overland
route across Spain which would involve passing over her great
cordilleras, say 10,000 feet) had travelled south by the coast-line as
far as the latitude of Cape St. Vincent. Thence they "hauled their wind"
and bore up on an easterly course which brought them direct into the
great marismas of the Guadalquivir.[17]


We had acquired this waste of marsh and mud-flat and were keen to "go
and possess it." Initial difficulties arose to confront us. Though the
whole region now belonged to us (_i.e._ the rights of chase, and it
boasts but little other value) yet our possession was to be met by some

It was all very natural, delightfully human, and despite the annoyance,
captivated our sympathy. Local fowlers, accustomed from immemorial times
to earn a scant living by shooting for market the wildfowl of the
wilderness, resented this acquisition of exclusive rights. Our scattered
guards were overawed, our reed-built huts were burned, and threats
reached us--not to mention a casual bullet or two ricochetting in wild
bounds across the watery waste. That one quality, however, above
mentioned--sympathy--is the passport to Spanish hearts, and thereby,
together with courtesy and fair-dealing, the erstwhile insurgents in
brief time became the best of friends.

For the moment, however, we found ourselves hutless, and constrained to
encamp two leagues away on the distant _terra firma_, this involving an
extra couple of hours' work in the small dark hours.

As before 4 A.M. we rode, beneath a pouring rain, "path-finding," in
blind darkness across slimy ooze and shallow--not to mention deeper
channels that reached to the girths,--a nightjar circled round our
cavalcade--true, a very small event, but recorded because it is quite
against the rules for a nightjar to be here in December. Only three guns
braved this adventure, and by 5.45 we occupied each his allotted post.
These could not be called comfortable, since the positions in which we
had to spend the next six or eight hours were quite six inches deep in
water, and the only covert a circle of samphire-bush barely a foot above
water-level--that being the utmost height allowed by the keen sight of
flighting fowl. Each man had an armful of cut brushwood to kneel on,
besides another bundle on which cartridge-bags might be supported clear
of the water.[18]

Rain descended in sheets. Before it was fully light--indeed the average
human being of diurnal habit would probably swear it was still quite
dark--the swish of wings overhead foretold the coming day. Then with a
roar the whole marisma bursts into life as though by clock-work.
Thrice-a-minute, and oftener, sped bunches of duck right in one's face,
at times a hurricane of wings. Not seeing them till quite close in, but
one barrel can be emptied each time, yet soon a score of beautiful
pintail and wigeon formed the basis of a pile.

Behind, in the gloom to westward, a sense of movement has developed. At
first it might have been but the drift of night-clouds, but as light
broadens, form and colour evolve and the phenomenon shapes itself into
vast bodies of flamingoes, sprawling, as it were, on the face of heaven
in writhing, scintillating confusion. After infinite evolutions, the
amorphous mass resolves itself into order; files and marshalled
phalanxes serry the sky--those weird wildfowl, each with some six foot
of rigid extension, advancing direct upon our posts. Their armies have
spent the night on the broad _lucios_ of El Desierto, and now head away
towards feeding-grounds outside. Arrayed line beyond line in echelon,
ten thousand pinions beat, in unison--beat in short, sharp strokes from
the elbow. The fantasy of form amazes; the flash of contrasted colour as
the first sun-rays strike on black, white, and vermilion. One may have
witnessed this spectacle a score of times, yet never does it pall or
leave one without a sense that here nature has treated us to one of her
wildest creations. No rude sketch of ours--possibly not the best that
art can produce--will ever convey the effect of these quaint forms in
vast moving agglomeration. Long after they have vanished in space, one
remains entranced with the glamour of the scene.


The flamingoes have passed away, but the lightening skies are still
streaked and serried. Most numerous are the wigeon, millions of them in
hurrying phalanxes, white specks flanged with dark wings, too well known
to describe; pintails (this wet winter hardly less numerous), readily
distinguishable by their longer build and stately grace of flight; the
dark heads and snowy necks of the drakes conspicuous afar. The
arrow-like course of the shoveler, along with his vibrant wing-beats and
incessant call, "zook, zook, tsook, tsook," identify that species; while
gadwall, more sombre in tone than the mallards, "talk" in distinctive
style; and mob-like masses of teal and marbled ducks sweep along the
open channels. Then there are the diving-ducks with harsh corvine
croaks, pochards, ferruginous, and tufts, just as swift as the rest,
though of apparently more laboured flight; occasionally a string of
shelducks, conspicuous by size and contrasted colouring, and among them
all, swing along with leisurely wing-beats but equal speed, wedge-like
skeins of great grey-geese. A single morning's bag may include seven or
eight different species, sometimes a dozen.

Now the rim of the sun shows over the distant sierra, and one begins to
see one's environment and to realise what Las Nuevas is like. Of Mother
Earth as one normally conceives it not a particle is in sight, beyond
such low reeds and miles of samphire-tops as break the watery surface,
and a vista of this extends to the horizon.


Behind our positions stretched a _lucio_ of open water. Upon this, a
mile away, stood an army of flamingoes, whose croaks and gabblings
filled the still air. During a quiescent interval I examined these with
binoculars. Thereupon I discovered that the whole _lucio_ around them
and stretching away, say a league in length, was carpeted with legions
of duck, which had not been noticed with the naked eye. The discovery
explained also a resonant reverberation that, at recurring intervals, I
had noticed all the morning, and which I had attributed to the gallant
Cervera's squadron at quick-firing gun-practice away in Cádiz Bay. Now I
saw the cause; it was due to the duck-hawks and birds-of-prey! Twice
within ten minutes a swooping marsh-harrier aroused that host on
wing--or, say, half-a-mile of them--to fly in terror; but only to settle
a few hundred yards farther away. The harrier's hope was clearly to
find a wounded bird among the crowd--the massed multitude none dared to

It is nine o'clock, the pile of dead has mounted up, but the "flight" is
slackening. Already I see our mounted keepers (who have hitherto stood
grouped on an islet two miles away) separate and ride forth to set the
ducks once more in motion. At this precise moment one remembers two
things--both that wretched breakfast at 3 A.M., and the luxuries that
lie at hand, almost awash among the reeds. Ducks pass by unscathed for a
full half-hour, while such quiet reigns in "No. 1" that tawny
water-shrews climb confidingly up the reeds of my screen.

Meanwhile the efforts of our drivers were becoming apparent in a renewal
of flighting ducks; but we would here emphasise the fact that these
second and artificially-produced flights are never so effective from a
fowler's point of view as the earlier, natural movements of the game.
For the ducks thus disturbed come, as the Spanish keepers put it,
_obligados_ and not of their own free-will. Hence they all pass
high--many far above gunshot--and not even the attraction that our fleet
of "decoys" (for we have now stuck up the whole of the morning's spoils
to deceive their fellows) will induce more than a limited proportion,
and those only the smaller bands, to descend from their aërial altitude.

The "movement" of these masses nevertheless affords another of those
spectacular displays that we must at least try to describe. For though
none of their sky-high armies will pass within gunshot--or ten
gunshots--yet one cannot but be struck with amazement when the whole
vault of heaven above presents a quivering vision of wings--shaded,
seamed, streaked, and spotted from zenith to horizon. Then the
multiplied pulsation of wings is distinctly perceptible--a singular
sensation. One remembers it when, perhaps an hour later, you become
conscious of its recurrence. But now the heavens are clear! Not a single
flight crosses the sky--not one, that is, within sight. But up above,
beyond the limits of human vision, there pass unseen hosts, and _theirs_
is that pulsation you feel.

The passage of these sky-scrapers is actuated by no puny manoeuvre of
ours. They are travellers on through-routes. Perhaps the last land (or
water) they touched was Dutch or Danish; and they will next alight
(within an hour) in Africa. Already at their altitude they can see,
spread out, as it were, at their feet, the marshes and meres of Morocco.

Although nominally describing that first day in Las Nuevas (and, so far
as facts go, adhering rigidly thereto), yet we are endeavouring to
concentrate in fewest words the actual lessons of many subsequent years
of practical experience. Thus the pick-up on that day (though it may
have numbered a couple of hundred ducks) we refrain from recording in
this attempt to convey the concrete while avoiding detail.

Back again, splash, splosh, through mud and mire, two hours' ride to our
camp-fire--a picturesque scene with our marsh-bred friends gathered
round, their tawny faces lurid in the firelight as flames shoot upwards
and pine-cones crack like pistol-shots; and over the embers hang a score
of teal each impaled on a supple bough. Away beyond there loom like
spectres our horses tethered when silvery moonlight glances through
scattered pines. Things would have been pleasant indeed had the rain but
stopped occasionally. True we had our tents; but our men slept in the
open, each rolled in his cloak, beneath some sheltering bush.




Vast as their aggregations may be, yet wildfowl do not
necessarily--merely by virtue of numbers--afford any sort of certainty
to the modern fowler. Half-a-million may be in view day by day, but in
situations or under conditions where scarce half-a-score can be killed.
This elementary feature is never appreciated by the uninitiated, nor
probably ever will be since Hawker's terse and trenchant prologue failed
to fix it.[19]

What "the Colonel" wrote a century ago stands equally good to-day; and
_mutatis mutandis_ will probably stand good a century hence.


Long before the authors had appeared on the scene with
breech-loaders--even before the epoch of Hawker with his copper-caps and
detonators--the Spanish fowlers of the marisma had already devised means
of their own whereby the swarming wildfowl could be secured by
wholesale. As a market venture, their system of a stalking-horse (called
a _cabresto_) was deadly in the extreme and interesting to boot,
affording unique opportunity of closely approaching massed wildfowl
while still unconscious of danger. We have spent delightful days
crouching behind these shaggy ponies, and describe the method later. But
this is not a style that at all subserves the aspirations of the modern
gunner, and we here study the problem from his point of view.

The essence of success lies in ascertaining precisely the exact areas
where fowl in quantity are "strongly haunted," by day and night,
together with their regular lines of flight thence and thereto.
Obviously such exact knowledge in these vast marismas, devoid of
landmarks, demands careful observation, and it must be remembered that
these things change with every change of weather and water. Having
located such well-frequented resorts or flight-lines, the degree of
success will yet depend on the _strength_ of the "haunt." It may happen
(despite all care) that the partiality of the fowl for that special spot
or route is merely superficial and evanescent. A dozen shots and they
have cleared out, or altered their course. In the reverse case, so
strong may be their "haunt" that no amount of disturbance entirely
drives them away, and even those that have already been scared by the
sound of shooting will yet return again and again.

       *       *       *       *       *

By night ducks feed in the slobby shallows and oozes, but concealed by
the samphire-growth which flourishes in such places. Hence the use of
the stancheon-gun is not here available as in the case of bare,
plant-free, tidal flats at home and elsewhere.

In the dusk the ducks have arrived at these feeding-grounds in quite
small trips or bunches. But as the stars pale towards the dawn, they
depart in larger detachments, often numbering hundreds in a pack. Still,
such are their enormous numbers that, even so, their shifting armies
form an almost continuous stream in the direction whither they take
their course. But where is that? That is the problem on the solution of
which the fowler's success depends. We will presume that you have so
solved it. In that case, you will have witnessed, between an hour before
sun-up and half-an-hour thereafter, as marvellous a procession as the
scheme of bird-life can afford.

Let us follow the fowl throughout that matutinal flight. Away through
leagues of empty space they hold their course, now high in air where
vistas of brown samphire loom like land and might conceal a lurking foe,
anon lowering their flight where sporadic sheets or lanes of open water
break the tawny monotony. Beyond all this, stretching away in open
waters like an inland sea, lies a big _lucio_. That is their goal. One
by one, or in dozens and scores, the infinite detachments re-unite to
splash down upon that glassy surface. Within brief minutes the whole
expanse is darkened as with a carpet.


Upon this _lucio_ the assembled ducks command a view for miles around.
Hardly could a water-rat approach unseen. If the fowl persisted in
passing the entire day thereon, no human power would avail to molest
them--they could bid defiance to fowlers of every race and breed. Two
circumstances, however, favour their human foes. The first is the
perpetual disturbance created among those floating hosts by
birds-of-prey. These--chiefly marsh-harriers, but including also the
great black-backed gulls--execute perpetual "feints" at the swimming
ducks, sections of which (often thousands strong) are compelled to rise
on wing by the menacing danger. The dominant idea actuating the raptores
(since they are unable to attack the main bodies) is to ascertain if one
or more wounded ducks remain afloat after their sound companions have
cleared--the cripples, of course, affording an easy prey. The disturbed
fowl will not fly far, perhaps half-a-mile, unless indeed they happen
during that flight to catch sight of an attractive fleet of "decoys"
moored in some quiet creek a mile or so away.

The second favouring circumstance arises from a difference in habit
between ducks in Spain and their relatives (even con-specific)
inhabiting British waters. For whereas the latter, as a rule, will
remain quiescent in their selected resting-places the livelong day, in
Spain, on the contrary, by about 11 A.M., the force of hunger begins
visibly to operate--not in all, but in sections, which, rising in
detachments, separate themselves from the masses and commence
exploratory cruises among the smaller and shallower _lucios_ where food
may be found.[20] This intermittent flight slackens off for an hour or
so at midday, is renewed in the afternoon, and stops dead one hour
before sun-down.

To exploit the advantage offered by these habits it is necessary to
ascertain to which of the innumerable minor _lucios_ these
"hunger-marchers" are resorting. Observation will have decided that
point, and our expert gunner now (at 11 A.M.) be concealed with
scrupulous care, and his fleet of, say, fifty decoys set out in lifelike
and (or) attractive attitudes, exactly in the centre of the particular
lagoon, whither, of recent days, the ducks have been observed to resort
in greatest abundance from noon onwards.

The gunner lies expectant on the cut rushes which strew the
bottom-boards of his _cajon_--a box-shaped punt some 7 feet long by
2-1/2 broad, which is concealed by being thrust bodily in the midst of
the biggest samphire bush available. The craft nevertheless is still
afloat and, though flat-bottomed, is yet terribly crank, and any sudden
movement to port or starboard threatens to capsize the entire outfit.

To allay the tense suspicion of flighting wildfowl, several of the
adjacent bushes for fifty yards around have been heightened by the
addition of a cut bough or two--the idea being to induce a theory among
passing ducks merely that this particular spot seems peculiarly
favourable to samphire-growth--that and nothing more.

In setting up decoys, while many are posed in lifelike attitudes, it is
advisable to hang a few (especially white-plumaged species, such as
pintail, shoveler, and wigeon-drakes) in almost vertical positions, in
order to induce a belief among hungry incomers that these birds are
"turning-up" to feast on abundant subaquatic plants beneath.

This intermittent flight is naturally irregular, hunger affecting
greater or less numbers on different days; but when it comes off in
force affords the cream of wildfowling from before noon till the sun
droops in the west. During the last hour before he dips not a wing

Duck-shooting thus resolves itself into two main systems: (1)
intercepting the fowl on flight at dawn, and later (2) awaiting their
incoming at expected points.

A good shoot may sometimes be engineered by cutting a broad "ride"
through the samphire along some flight-line, thereby forming an open
channel between two _lucios_. Ducks which have hitherto flown sky-high
in order to cross the danger-zone will now pass quite low along the new
waterway, and even prefer it to crossing the cover at hazard, however

A typical day's fowling in mid-marisma may be described. The night has
been spent in a reed-built hut charmingly situate on a mud-islet
half-an-acre in extent, and commanding unequalled views of flooded and
featureless marisma. At 4 A.M. we turn out and by the dim light of a
lantern embark in a _cajon_ (punt), serenaded by the croaks and gabbling
of flamingoes somewhere out in the dark waters. My wild companion,
Batata, kneeling in the bows and grasping a punt-pole in either hand,
bends to his work, and away we glide--into the unknown.

A weird feeling it is squatting thus at water-level and watching the
wavelets dance by or dash over our two-inch free-board. We make but
three miles an hour, yet seem to fly past half-seen water-plants. A
myriad stars are reflected on the still surface ahead, and it is by a
single great _Lucero_ (planet) that our pilot is now steering his

Batata presently remarks that we have "arrived." One takes his word for
this. Still that verb does conditionally imply some place or spot of
arrival. Here there was none--none, at least, that could be
differentiated from any other point or spot in many circumambient
leagues. But this was not an hour for philological disquisition, so we
mentally decide that we have reached "nowhere." A few hours later when
daylight discovers our environment, that negation appears sufficiently
proved. There are visible certain objects on the distant horizon.
One--that behind us--proves to be the roof of the _choza_ wherein we had
spent the night--"hull-down" to the eastward. The others a lengthened
scrutiny with prism-binoculars shows to be a trio of wild camels feeding
knee-deep in water. Now where you see such signs you may conclude you
are nowhere.

We skip a few hours, since we have no intention of inflicting on the
reader the details of a morning's flight-shooting. Suffice that at 9
A.M. B. reappears poling up in his punt, the spoils are collected
(forty-nine in all, mostly wigeon and teal, with a few pintail and
shoveler and one couple of gadwall), and the plan for the day discussed.
To remain where we were (as this _lucio_ had yesterday attracted a
fairly continuous flight of ducks) had been our original idea. But a
shift of the wind had rendered a second _lucio_, distant two miles, a
more favourable resort for to-day, and thither accordingly we set out.
Here a new _puesto_ is promptly prepared and the forty-nine decoys
deftly set out, each supported by a supple wand stuck in the mud below.
Hardly had these preparations been completed, than the intermittent (or
secondary) flight had commenced, file after file of ducks heading up
from distant space, wheeling over or dashing past the seductive decoys.
At recurring moments during the next three or four hours (with blank
intervals between) I enjoyed to the full this most delightful form of
wildfowling, so totally different in practice to all others.

Such is the speed of flighting fowl, such their keenness of vision and
instant perception of danger, that but a momentary point of time--say
the eighth of a second--is available fully to exploit each chance.
Should the gunner rise too quick, the ducks are beyond the most
effective range; yet within a space not to be measured by figures or
words, they will have detected the fraud, and in a flash have scattered,
shooting vertically upwards like a bunch of sky-rockets.

Two features in the life-history of the duck-kind become apparent. The
first points to the probability that adults pair for life, and that the
mated couples keep together all winter even when forming component units
in a crowd. For when an adult female is shot from the midst of a pack,
the male will almost invariably accompany her in her fall to the very
surface of the water, and will afterwards circle around, piping
disconsolately, and even return again and again in search of his lost
partner. This applies chiefly to wigeon, but we have frequently observed
the same trait in pintail and occasionally in other species. It is only
the drakes that display this constancy; a bereaved female continues her
flight unheeding.

The feature is most conspicuous when awaiting ducks at their
feeding-grounds (_comederos_), but it also occurs when shooting on their
flight-lines (_correderos_) between distant points.

The second singular habit is the custom, particularly among wigeon, to
form what are termed in Spanish _magañonas_--little groups of four to a
dozen birds consisting of a single female with a bevy of males in
attendance, flying aimlessly hither and thither in a compact mass, the
drakes constantly calling and the one female twisting and turning in all
directions as though to avoid their attentions. The _magañonas_ appear
blind to all sense of danger, and will pass within easy range even
though a gunner be fully exposed. Not only this, but a first shot may
easily account for half-a-dozen, and should the hen be among the fallen,
the survivors will come round again and again in search of her. We have
known whole _magañonas_ to be secured within a few minutes.

Other species also form _magañonas_, but more rarely and never in so
conspicuous a manner as the wigeon. The habit certainly springs from
what we have elsewhere termed a "pseudo-erotic" instinct (see _Bird-life
of the Borders_, 2nd ed., pp. 208, 234-5), and is probably the first
pairing of birds which have just then reached full maturity.

       *       *       *       *       *

From mid-February to the end of March ducks are constantly departing
northwards whenever conditions favour, to wit, a south-west wind in the
afternoon, which wind is a feature of the season. Their vacant places
are at once filled by an equally constant succession of arrivals from
the south (Africa), easily recognised by rusty stains on their lower
plumage (denoting ferruginous water) which they lose here within a few

Ducks at this season can find food everywhere in the _manzanilla_, or
camomile, which now grows up from the bottom and in places covers the
shallows with its white, buttercup-like flowers. Having food everywhere
there is less necessity to fly in search of it. It is, however, a
curious feature of the season that, after the morning-flight (which is
shorter than in mid-winter), ducks practically suspend all movement
from, say, 8 A.M. till the daily sea-breeze (_Viento de la mar_) springs
up about 1 P.M. During these five hours not a wing moves, but no sooner
has the sea-breeze set in than constant streams of ducks fly in
successive detachments from the large open _lucios_ to the shallower
feeding-grounds. Thus we have known a late February "bag," which at 2
P.M. had numbered but a miserable half-score, mount up before dusk to
little short of a hundred.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wigeon arrive from the end of September onwards, the great influx
occurring during the first fortnight of November. They commence leaving
from mid-February, and by the end of March all (save a few belated
stragglers) are gone.

The same remarks apply equally to pintail, shoveler, and teal, though,
as before remarked, pintail often appear exceptionally early--in
September,--and are again extremely conspicuous (after being scarce all
winter) on their return journey--_de vuelta paso_, as it is called--in

Gadwall, preferring deep waters, are not numerous in the shallow
marisma. A big bag therein, nevertheless, will always include a few
couples of this species.

Shoveler are so numerous that we have known over eighty bagged by one
gun in a day.

Garganey chiefly occur in early autumn and again _de vuelta paso_ in
March. They winter in Africa.

Marbled duck breed here, and in September large bags may be made; but in
mid-winter (when they have retired to Africa) it is rare to secure more
than half-a-dozen or so in a day. They are very bad eating.

Shelduck only occur in dry seasons. They fall easy victims to any sort
of "decoy" provided it is _white_. A local fowler told us he had killed
many by substituting (in default of natural decoys) the dry bones and
skulls of cattle! Ruddy shelduck do not frequent the marisma, preferring
the sweeter waters and shallows adjoining Doñana.

Diving-ducks avoid the marisma except only in the wettest winters.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour before sun-down, as above stated, all bird-movement ceases. For
a brief space absolute tranquillity reigns over the illimitable marisma.
The dusky masses that cover the _lucios_ seem lulled to sleep and
silence. But the interlude is very temporary. Hardly has night thrown
her mantle across the wastes, than all that tremendous, eager, vital
energy is reawakened to fresh activities. A striking and a memorable
experience will be gained by awaiting that exact hour at some favourite
feeding-ground. Within a few minutes, as darkness deepens, the ambient
air fairly hisses and surges with the pulsation of thousand strong
pinions hurtling close by one's ear, and with the splash of heavy bodies
flung down by fifties and hundreds in the shallows almost within
arm's-length--the nearest approximation that occurs to us is a
bombardment of pompoms. Yet, for all that, night-flighting in the
marisma (having regard to the quantities concerned) produces but
insignificant results. The ducks come in so low and so direct--no
preliminary circling overhead--and at such velocity that this
flight-shooting may be likened to an attempt to hit cannon-balls in the
dark. Our expert shots score, say, eight or ten, but what is that? The
nocturnal disturbance, moreover, may be (and usually is) prejudicial to
the next day's operations, and it is clearly not worth the risk, for
half-a-dozen shots in the twilight, to discount a hundred at dawn.

The fewer shots ducks hear, the better. Never disturb them unless you
have every reasonable prospect of exacting a proportionate toll.





To Spain, as to other lands that remain unaltered and "unimproved,"
resort the greylag geese in thousands to pass the winter.

In our marismas of the Guadalquivir they appear during the last days of
September, but it is a month later ere their full numbers are made up,
and from that date until the end of February their defiant multitudes
and the splendid difficulties of their pursuit afford a unique form and
degree of wild sport perhaps unknown outside of Spain.

Ride through the marisma in November; it is mostly dry, and autumn rains
have merely refreshed the sun-baked alluvia and formed sporadic
shallows, or _lucios_ as they are here termed. That _lucio_ straight
ahead is a mile across, yet it is literally tessellated with a sonorous
crowd. With binoculars one distinguishes similar scenes beyond; the
intervening space--and indeed the whole marisma--is crowded with geese
as thickly as it is on our immediate front. To right and left rise fresh
armies hitherto concealed among the _armajo_, till the very earth seems
in process of upheaval, while the air resounds with a volume of
voices--gabblings, croaks, and shrill bi-tones mingled with the rumble
of beating wings.

Amid the islands of the Norwegian Skaargaard one can see geese in bulk,
but there their numbers are distributed over a thousand miles of coast.
Here we have them all--or a large proportion--concentrated in what is by
comparison but a narrow space.

In their life-habits these geese are strictly diurnal, that is, they
feed by day--chiefly in the early morning and again towards afternoon,
with a mid-day interval of rest. The night they spend asleep on some
broad _lucio_ or other bare open space. That habit, however, is subject
to modification during the periods of full moon, when many geese avail
themselves of her brilliant light to feed in even greater security than
they can enjoy by day. Their food consists exclusively of vegetable
substances--at first of the remnants of the summer's herbage, such as
green ribbon-grass (_canaliza_), and other semi-aquatic plants; their
main sustenance in mid-winter consists of the tuber-bearing roots of
spear-grass (_Cyperus longus_ and _C. rotundus_) which they dig up from
the ground.

[Illustration: ROOT OF SPEAR-GRASS]

When autumn rains are long delayed, their voracious armies will already
have consumed every green thing that remains in the parched marismas
long before the "new water" from the heavens shall have furnished new
feeding-grounds. In such cases the geese are forced to depart, and do
so--so far as our observation goes--in the direction of Morocco;
returning thence (within a few hours) immediately after rain has fallen.
Their entry, on this second arrival, is invariably from the south and
south-west--that is, from the sea.

There are three methods of shooting wild-geese in the Spanish marismas
which may here be specified, to wit:--

(1) Morning-flight, when the geese habitually come to "take sand" at the
dawn. See next chapter.

(2) "Driving" during the day (available only in dry years).

(3) Awaiting their arrival at dusk at their _dormideros_, or
sleeping-places, see pp. 97, 98.

An all-important factor in their pursuit arises from an economic
necessity with wild-geese constantly to possess, and frequently to
renew, a store of sand or grit in their gizzards. To obtain this they
resort every morning to certain sandy spots in the marismas (hereinafter
described, and which are known as _vetas_); or failing that, when the
said _vetas_ are submerged, to the sand-dunes outside. Although great
numbers of geese resort each morning to these spots, yet those numbers
are but a small proportion of their entire aggregate, for no individual
goose needs to replenish his supply of sand or grit more often than
perhaps once a week, or even less frequently. Hence at each dawn it is a
fresh contingent of geese that comes in _para arenárse_ = to "sand
themselves," as our keepers put it.

One other quality in the natural economy of wild-geese requires
mention--that is, their sense of scent. This defence wild-geese possess
in equal degree with wild-ducks and most other wild creatures; but each
class differ in their modes of utilising it.

For whereas ducks on detecting human scent will take instant alarm and
depart afar on that indication alone; yet geese, on the other hand,
though their nostrils have fully advised them of the presence of danger,
will not at once take wing, but remain--with necks erect and all eyes
concentrated towards the suspect point--awaiting confirmation by sight
what they already know by scent.

That such is the case we ascertained in the days (now long past) when we
ventured to stalk geese with no more covert than the low fringe of rush
that borders the marisma. "_Gatiando_" = cat-crouching, our keepers term
the method--laborious work, creeping flat for, it may be, 200 yards,
through sloppy mud with less than two-foot of cover. Should it become
necessary during the stalk to go directly to windward of the fowl, one's
presence (though quite unseen) would be instantly detected. The geese,
ceasing to feed or rest, all stood to attention, while low, rumbling
alarm-signals resounded along their lines. But they did not take wing.
Presently, however, one reached a gap in the thickly growing rushes--it
might not extend to a yard in width, yet no sooner was but a glimpse
available to the keen eyes beyond, than the whole pack rose in
simultaneous clatter of throats and wings. They had merely waited that
scintilla of ocular confirmation of a known danger.


For four months no rain had fallen. The parched earth gaped with
cavernous cracks; vegetation was dried up; starving cattle stood about
listless, and every day one saw the assembled vultures devouring the
carcases of those already dead.

From the turrets of our shooting-lodge one's eye surveyed--no longer an
inland sea, but a monotone of sun-baked mud; inspection through
binoculars revealed the fact that this whole space was dotted with
troops of ... well, a friend who was with us thought they were sheep;
but which, in fact, were bands of greylag geese.

The fluctuations of Spanish seasons--varying from Noachian deluge to
Saharan drought--necessarily react upon the habits of wildfowl. These
changes are one of the charms of the country; at any rate, they "stretch
out" the fowler to devise some new thing.

Those battalions of greylags posted out there on a vantage-ground where
a mouse might be a prominent object at 100 yards, how can they be
reduced to possession? Our friend aforesaid replies that the undertaking
appears humanly impossible. We have, nevertheless, elaborated a system
of driving, by which in dry years the greylag geese may be obtained with
some degree of certainty.

This morning (the last of January) we rode forth, four guns and four
keepers, across that plain. Upon approaching the pack of geese selected,
one keeper rides to a position rather above the "half-wind" line, and
there halts as a "stop." The remaining seven ride on till, at a silent
signal, No. 1 gun, without checking his horse, passes the bridle forward
and rolls out of the saddle with gun and gear, lying at once flat as a
flounder on the bare dry mud. At intervals of eighty yards each
successive gun does the same, the four being now extended in a half-moon
that commands nearly a quarter-mile of space. The three keepers (leading
the other horses) continue riding forward in circular course till a
second "stop" is placed in the right flank corresponding with the one
already posted on the left. The last pair now complete the circuit by
riding round to windward of the game, separating by 200 yards as that
position is attained. (See diagram.)


How are these four guns to conceal themselves on perfectly bare ground
from the telescopic sight of wild-geese? Occasionally, some small
natural advantage may be found--such as tufts of rushes--and these are
at once availed of. But this morning there is no such aid. Not a rush
nor a mole-hill breaks that dead-level monotone for miles; and in such
condition a human being, however flat he may lie, is bound to be
detected by the keen-eyed geese long ere they arrive within shot.[21] A
dozen twigs of tree-heath, dipped in wet mud and then allowed to dry, so
as to harmonise in colour with the surroundings, may be utilised; but
the annexed sketch shows better than words a portable screen we have
devised and which fulfils this purpose. It consists of four bamboo
sticks two feet long, sharpened at the point, and connected by four or
five strings with one-foot intervals. This when rolled up forms a bundle
no thicker than an umbrella. On reaching one's post the bundle unrolls
of itself, the sharpened points are stuck into the ground at an angle
sloping towards the prostrate gun, a few tufts of dead grass (carried in
one's pocket) are woven through the strings and the shelter is complete.
Needless to say, these preparations must be carried out with the minimum
of movement in face of such vigilant foes. Some assistance, however,
accrues from the geese continuing to watch the moving file of horsemen
while the prostrate gunner erects his screen.


Well, the circle being complete, all four drivers (distant now, say,
1000 yards) converge on the common centre. The watchful geese have
ceased grubbing up the spear-grass, and now stand alert with a forest
of necks erect, while an increasing volume of gabbling attests their
growing suspicion. Presently, with redoubled outcry, they rise on wing,
and now commences the real science of our Spanish fowlers. The guns,
after all, command but a small segment of the circle--anywhere else the
geese can break out scathless--and this mischance it is the object of
our drivers and flankers to avert. No sooner does the gaggling band
shift its course to port or starboard than the "stop" on that side is
seen to be urging his horse in full career to intercept their flight,
yet using such judgment as will neither deflect their course too much or
turn them back altogether. Sometimes both flankers and drivers are seen
to be engaged at once, and a pretty sight it is to the prostrate gunners
to watch the equestrian manoeuvres.

Presently the whole band head away for what appears the only available
outlet, and should they then pass directly over one or other of the
guns, are seldom so high but that a pair should be secured

In strong gales of wind the geese, on being driven, are apt, instead of
taking a direct course, to circle around in revolving flight, gaining
altitude at each revolution; and in such case not only come in very high
but at incredible speed--_mas lejeros que zarcetas_--swifter than teal,
as Vasquez puts it.

The first essential of success in driving wild-geese (and the same
applies to great bustard and all large winged game) is to instal the
firing-line as near as may be without disturbing the fowl. The more
remote the guns the greater the difficulty in forcing the game through
the crucial pass.

To manoeuvre single bands of geese as above, three or four guns at
most, with the same number of drivers, are best. A great crowd of
horsemen (such being never seen in these wilds) unduly arouses
suspicions already acute enough. With any greater number of guns, it is
advisable to extend the field of operations to, say, two or three miles,
thereby enclosing several troops of geese--this requiring a large force
of drivers. It does not, however, follow that each of these enclosed
troops will "enter" to the guns; for should one pack come in advance,
the firing will turn back the others. This mischance--or rather
bungle--may be averted (or may not) by the leading driver firing a blank
shot behind so soon as the first geese are seen to have taken wing.
Needless to remark, once a shot has been fired ahead, it becomes
tenfold harder to force the remaining geese to the guns.

Each gun should hold his fire till the main bodies of geese are well on
wing and seen to be heading in towards the shooting-line. The "best
possible" chances are thus secured, and not for one gun only, but quite
possibly for all, as several hundred geese pass down the line. A
premature shot, on the contrary, will ruin the best-planned drive, and
bring down merited abuse from the rest of the party with scathing
contempt from the drivers.

Taking single troops at a time, as many as six or eight separate drives
may be worked into a long day. Our first drive to-day produced three
geese, the second was blank, while five greylags rewarded the third
attempt. In the last instance three of the guns received welcome aid
from a string of _ojos_, or land-springs, around which grew a fringe of
green rushes, affording excellent cover.

By four o'clock we had secured, in five drives, eleven geese and a
wigeon. We then, on information received, changing our plan, rode off to
a point which the keeper of that district had noted was being used by
the geese as a _dormidero_, or sleeping-place; and here, as dusk fell,
an hour's "flighting" added six more greylags to that day's total.

The above may be put down as a fair average day's results in a dry
season. From a dozen to a score of driven geese (and occasionally many
more) represent, with such game as greylags, a degree and a quality of
sport that is ill-represented by cold numerals.

There are spots in the marisma where the configuration of the shore-line
enables the flight of the geese, when disturbed, to be foretold with
certainty. For geese will not cross dry land: their retreat is always to
the open waters. In such situations excellent results accrue from
placing the gun-line at a _right angle_ to the expected line of flight,
while all the "beaters," save one or two to flush the fowl, are
stationed as "stops" between the geese and their objective. On rising,
the birds thus find themselves confronted by a long line of horsemen who
intercept their natural retreat, and, in effect, force them back towards
the land. Should the operation be well executed, the landmost gun will
probably be the first to fire; while the geese thereafter pass down the
entire line of guns, possibly affording shots to each in turn.

Two guns can then be effectively brought into action. Needless to add,
the second must be handled with the utmost rapidity.

In wet winters, when the marisma is submerged, "driving" is not
available. Obviously you cannot place a line of guns, however keen, in
six inches of water, much less in half-a-yard.

     My first impression of wild-goose driving (writes J.) was one of
     wonder that such intensely astute and wide-awake fowl would ever
     fly near, much less over so obvious a danger as the little loose
     semicircle of rosemary twigs behind which I lay prone on the barest
     of bare mud. Peering through between their naked stalks, I could
     plainly see the geese some half-mile away, and it seemed incredible
     that I should not be equally visible to them. Possibly the brown
     leaves on top of the twigs may have concealed me from the loftier
     anserine point of view, and the equestrian manoeuvres beyond no
     doubt greatly aided the object. Anyway, the whole pack--three or
     four hundred, and proportionally noisy--_did_ come right over me,
     and a wildly exciting moment it was, I can assure you! We had six
     or seven drives that day, and bagged twenty-eight splendid great
     grey geese, of which eight fell to my lot.

     I may perhaps be allowed to add (since such details are taken for
     granted, or regarded as unworthy of note by regular gunners of the
     _marisma_) that to-day we had no less than six times to cross and
     recross a broad marsh-channel called the _Madre_--floundering,
     splashing, slithering, and stumbling through 100 yards of mud and
     water full three-foot deep. It may be nothing (if you're used to
     it), yet twice I've seen horses go down, and their riders take a
     cold bath, lucky if they didn't broach their barrels! To follow
     Vasquez about the _marisma_ is a job that requires special
     qualities that not all of us possess or (perchance fortunately?)
     require to possess.

The following instructions may be worth the attention of new

(1) Never fire till you are fairly certain to kill at least one.

(2) Never rise or even move in your "hide" till the beat is entirely

(3) Reload at once; when big lots are being moved, two, three, or more
chances may offer quite unexpectedly.

(4) Wear suitably coloured clothes and head-gear, and never let the sun
glint on the gun-barrels.

(5) After firing, watch the departing geese till nearly out of sight.
Though apparently unhurt, one of their company may turn over,
stone-dead, in the distance.


The day above described was selected, not only because it affords a
typical illustration of our theme, but also because there had occurred
during its course an extraneous incident which serves to amplify this
exposition of the pursuit of the greylag goose.

Riding across the marisma, certain signs at once filled both our minds
with fresh ideas. All around the ground was littered with cast feathers
and other evidence proclaiming that this special spot was a regular
resort of geese. We were crossing one of those slightly raised ridges of
sand and grit which here and there intersect the otherwise universal
dead-level of alluvial mud, and which ridges are known locally as

Now the nutritive economy of wild-geese, as already explained, requires
a frequently replenished store of sand or grit. In wet seasons (the
marisma being then submerged) the geese resort to the adjoining
sand-dunes of Doñana to secure these supplies. But in dry winters they
are enabled to obtain the necessary sand from these _vetas_; and it was
to this particular spot that, to the number of many hundreds, the geese
were evidently resorting at this period.

At once the measure of opportunity was gauged, and the arrangements
necessary for its exploitation were made. Within three minutes a
messenger was galloping homewards to summon a couple of men with spades
and buckets to prepare a hole wherein one of us might lie concealed at
daybreak. A pannier-mule to carry away the excavated material was also
requisitioned, since the least visible change in the earth's surface
would instantly be recognised by the geese as a danger-signal. Within a
few minutes we had resumed our course, to continue the day's sport.


Next morning half an hour before dawn the writer reached the spot. It
was pitch-dark and a dense fog prevailed. By what mental process my
guides directed an unerring course to that lonely hole in the midst of a
pathless and practically boundless waste passes understanding. Such
piloting (without aid of compass or even of the heavenly bodies--the
usual index on which marshmen rely) seems to indicate a point where
intellect and instinct touch; or perhaps rather a survival of the latter
quality which, in modern races, has become obsolete through disuse.
Among savage races that faculty of instinct is markedly prominent,
indeed the master-force; but there it has been acquired (or retained) at
the cost of intellect, which is not the case with our Spanish
friends--they possess both qualities. But place the best intellects of
Madrid, or Paris, or London in such conditions--in darkness, or fog, or
in viewless forest--and not one could hold a straight course for
half-a-mile. Within ten minutes each man would be lost, devoid of all
sense of direction. That is part of the price of the higher
civilisation--the loss of a faculty which need not clash with any other.
Of course where people live with a telephone at their ear, with electric
trams and "tubes" close at hand, where a whistle will summon an
attendant hansom and two a taxi-meter--or, as _Punch_ suggested, three
may bring down an airship--well, in such case, those modern "advantages"
may be held to outweigh the loss of a primitive natural faculty.

Hardly had a tardy light begun to strengthen to the dawn than the soft,
soliloquising "Gagga, gagga, gagga," with alternatively the raucous
"Honk-honk," resounded afar through the gloom. From seven o'clock
onwards geese were flying close around--so near that the rustling of
strong wings sounded almost within arm's-length; but that opaque fog
held unbroken and nothing could be seen. Long before eight I resolved to
quit and leave the fowl undisturbed for another morning rather than open
fire at so late an hour. Having a compass, I steered a good line to the
point where the horses awaited me, a mile away.

The following morning again broke foggy, though not quite so thick;
still I had only five geese at eight o'clock, when three packs coming
well in, in rapid succession, afforded three gratifying doubles. Total,
eleven geese.

Leaving the geese a few mornings' peace, on February 5 the authors
together occupied that hole at dawn. It proved a brilliant morning with
a fine show of geese. As each pack came in, we took it in turns to give
the word whether to fire or not. In the negative case, our eyes sank
gently below the surface of the earth, and crouching down we heard the
rush of wind-splitting pinions pass over and behind--probably to offer
a fairer mark when they next wheeled round. Then two, and often three,
great geese came hurtling downwards, to fall with resounding thuds
behind. Few mistakes occurred this morning and scarce a chance was
missed. But never could we succeed in working-in the two doubles at
once! The cramped space forbade that. The hole, having been dug for one,
gave no freedom of action for two guns; its floor, moreover, had now
become a compound of sticky glutinous clay a foot deep, and that further
hampered movements. Only one gun could work the second barrel.

After each shot, one of us jumped out and propped up the fallen geese as
decoys. To leave them lying about all-ends-up has a disastrous effect.

Ere the "flight" ceased we had five-and-twenty greylags down around our
hide, besides several others that had fallen at some distance, duly
marked by the keepers who now galloped off to gather these--say two
mule-loads of geese. The discovery of that lonely "sanding-place" had
had a concrete reward.




Flanking the marisma and separating it from the dry lands of Doñana,
there rises rampart-like a swelling range of dunes--the biggest thing in
the sand line we have seen on earth. For miles extend these mountains of
sand, unbroken by vestige of vegetation or any object to relieve one's
eyesight, dazzled--aye, blinded--by that brilliantly scintillating
surface, set off in vivid contrast by the azure vault above.

Should a stranger, on first seeing those buttressed dunes, be seriously
informed that their naked summits constitute a favourite resort of
wild-geese, he might reasonably suspect his informant's sanity, or at
least wonder whether his own credulity were not being tested. Yet such
is the fact--one of the surprises that befall in Spain, the _pays de

The paradox is explained by the stated necessity in wild-geese to
furnish their gizzards with store of grit or sand for digestive

This supply, so long as the marisma is dry, they are able to obtain from
those raised ridges of calcareous debris (already described, and known
locally as _vetas_) which here and there outcrop from the alluvial
wastes. But when winter rains and floods have submerged the whole region
and thus deprived the fowl of that local resource, they are forced to
rely upon the sand-dunes aforesaid and to substitute pure sea-sand for
their former specific of calcareous grit or disintegrated shells. To the
sand-dunes, therefore, in the cold bright mornings between October and
February, the skeins of greylag geese may be seen directing their course
in successive files, in order, as the Spanish put it, "to sand
themselves" (_arenárse_).

A notable fact (and one favourable to the fowler) is that, though these
dunes extend for miles, yet the geese select certain limited areas--or,
to be precise, the summits of two particular hills--for alighting, and
this despite their being regularly shot thereat, year after year.

With the first sign of dawn the earlier arrivals will be heard
approaching; but the bulk of the geese come in about sun-up and onwards
till 9 A.M. Geese arriving high (having come presumably from a distance)
will sometimes, after a preliminary wheel, suddenly collapse in mid-air,
diving and shooting earthwards in a score of curving lines--as teal do,
or tumbler-pigeons; but with these heavy fowl the manoeuvre is
executed with surprising grace and command of wing. Their numbers vary
on different mornings without any apparent cause; but it may be laid
down as a general rule that more will come on clear bright mornings than
when the dawn is overcast, while rain proves (as in all wildfowling) an
upsetting factor. Sometimes, even on favourable mornings, no geese
appear. Occasionally, in small numbers, they may visit the sand in

To exploit the advantage afforded by this habit of the geese, it is
necessary that the fowler be concealed before dawn in a hole dug for the
purpose in the sand--care being taken to utilise any natural
concealment, such as a depression flanked by a steep sand-revetment; so
that, at least from one quarter, the geese may perceive no danger till
right over the gun. The hole (or holes, but _one_ is best) must be dug
at least twelve hours before, or the newly turned sand will show up
dark. Were it not for the risk of wind filling them up with driving sand
(a matter of an hour or two), the holes might well be prepared two or
even three days beforehand. The excavated material is piled up around
the periphery and flattened down smooth, thus forming a raised rampart
which screens the suspicious darkness of the interior. Needless to say,
the fewer human footprints around the spot, the better.

Such is the inability exhibited by many sportsmen (not being
wildfowlers) to conceal their persons--or even to recognise the virtue
of concealment--that, for such, the holes are apt to be made too big,
and the geese swerve off at sight of those gaping pits. This indeed is a
form of sport that none save wildfowlers need essay--others merely
succeed in thwarting the whole enterprise.

However carefully prepared and skilfully occupied, these holes (dug in
naked sand) must obviously be visible enough to the keen sight of
incoming greylags. One such hole (when backed up by well-placed decoys)
the geese may almost ignore; two they distrust; while three inspire
something approaching panic. Consequently a single craftsman who knows
his business and bides his time will shoot, under the most favourable
circumstances, at almost every successive band of geese that means
alighting. Two guns, in _full sympathy_ with each other, may effectually
combine by occupying holes dug at some fifty yards apart and with a
single set of decoys set midway between for mutual use. Thus there can
be secured fair, frequent, and almost simultaneous shots.

It is essential to bear in mind the fact that the geese have come with
the intention (unless prematurely alarmed) of _alighting_. Hence, as
they often circle two or three times around before finally deciding, a
judicious refusal of all uncertain chances has a concrete reward when, a
few seconds later, the pack sweep overhead at half gunshot. The first
element of success lies in concealment; the second in ever allowing the
geese to come in to such close quarters as renders the shot a certainty.

Greylag geese are, of course, huge birds, very strong, and impenetrable
as ironclads. But to tyros (and many others) in the early light they are
apt to appear much larger, and consequently much nearer, than is
actually the case. All this has, the night before, been impressed upon
our friend, the tyro, in solemn, even tragic tones. The urgency of the
thing seems to have been graven deep on the very tissues of his brain,
and he promises with earnest humility to bear the lesson in mind when
the vital moment shall arrive; to deny himself all but point-blank shots
well within thirty yards, whereby he will not only himself assist to
swell the score, but enable his companion to do likewise.

Words fail to describe that companion's frame of mind at the dawn, when,
despite over-night exhortations and assurances, he sees to his horror
pack after pack of incoming geese (some of which he has himself let pass
within forty yards) "blazed at" at mad and reckless ranges by that
wretched scarecrow who never ruffles a feather and afterwards tries to
excuse his failure by enlarging on "the extreme height the geese came in

These goose-hills, it may here appropriately be stated, lie midway
between our two shooting-lodges and distant between two and three hours'
ride from either. Thus every morning's goose-shooting presupposes some
fairly arduous work. It means being in the saddle by 4 A.M. with its
resultant discomforts and a long scrambling ride in the dark. Hence the
disgust is proportionate when all that work is thrown away in such
insane style. Never again for any tyro on earth, though he be our
clearest friend, never will the authors turn out at 3 A.M., abusing with
clattering hoof the silence and repose of midnight watch and the hours
designed for rest--never again, unless alone or with a known and
reliable companion.

A word now as to the "decoys." These, in design, are American--first
observed and brought across from Chicago--cut out of block-tin, formed
and painted to resemble a grey-goose. Geese being gregarious by nature
are peculiarly susceptible to the attractions of decoys. Hence these tin
geese have a marvellous effect when silhouetted on the skyline of a
sand-ridge, being conspicuous for enormous distances and the only
"living" objects on miles of desert. They are _most_ deadly before
sunrise, after which they are apt to glint too much despite a coating of
dried mud. As daylight broadens, incoming geese are apt to be
disconcerted at losing sight of their supposed friends, which event must
occur as each decoy falls end-on--one can interpret the hurried queries
and expletives of the puzzled phalanx at that mysterious disappearance!
For these reasons it is desirable as soon as possible to supplement the
decoys with, and finally to substitute for them, the real article, that
is, the newly shot geese, set up in life-like attitudes by aid of twigs
brought for the purpose. Fallen birds must, in any case, be set up as
fast as gathered; if left spread-eagled as they fell, inevitably the
next comers are scared. The more numerous and life-like the decoys, the
more certain are the geese to come in with confidence and security.

Naturally great care must be used in getting into and out of one's hide
to avoid breaking down its loose and crumbling substance. But it is of
first importance quickly to gather and prop up the dead. A winged goose
walking away should be stopped with a charge of No. 6 in the head.

As illustrating the life-like effect produced by our tin decoys, on one
occasion a friend, after firing both barrels, was watching a wounded
goose, when a strange sound behind attracted his attention. On looking
round, a fox was seen to have sprung upon one of the tin geese! That a
fox, with his keen intuition and knowledge of things, should have
considered it worth his while to stalk wild-geese (even of flesh and
blood) on that naked expanse seems incredible. The fact remains that he
did it!

Strange indeed are the sensations evoked by that silent watch before
day-dawn, in expectation of what truly appears incredible! Buried
virtually in a desert of sand the fowler has nothing in sight beyond the
dark dunes and a star-spangled sky overhead. For his hide is cunningly
hidden in a slight depression with a hanging buttress on two sides.


Several hundred yards away, concealed under stunted pines, stand our
horses, while the men cower round a small fire, for we have had a biting
cold two-hours' ride, and freezing to boot. Half-a-mile away on the
other side--the east--begins the marisma, though hidden from view by the
waves of rolling sand that intervene.

Now a faint glint of light gleams on the tin decoys and foretells the
coming dawn. Five more minutes elapse, and then ... that low deep-toned
anserine call-note, instinct with concentrated caution--"Gagga, gagga,
gagga, gagga"--sets pulses and nerves on fuller stretch. This pack
proves to be but an advance-guard; for this is one of those
thrice-blessed mornings for which we pray! The geese come in thick and
fast in successive bands of six or eight to a score, and all beautifully
timed, with exactly the correct interval between. The fowler is a
craftsman, a master of his art, and, moreover, he is all alone. Hence he
can to-day await the psychological moment with patience and absolute
confidence. Rarely in such circumstances is trigger touched in vain; not
seldom has the second gun been brought into action with good, thrice
with double effect. No simple achievement is this, when fowl vanish
swift and ghost-like into space; for, remember, guns must be exchanged
with due deliberateness else shifting sand in an instant fills the
breech and clogs the actions. Thrice has the double _carambola_ been
brought off, and now comes the prettiest shot of all--five geese swing
past, head up for the decoys, and pass full broadside at deadliest
range; they are barely twenty yards away. In all but simultaneous pairs
fall four of their company on the sand--all four stone dead; and but a
single survivor wings away to bear news of the catastrophe to his
fellows in the marisma!

It is 8 A.M., and the tin decoys are now entirely replaced by geese of
flesh and feather, with the fatal result that each successive pack now
enters with fullest confidence, so that by doubles and trebles the score
mounts fast during the fleeting minutes that yet remain.

Before nine o'clock the flight has ceased. It only remains to gather
those birds which have fallen afar--and which have been marked by the
keepers from their points of vantage--and to follow by their spoor on
the sand such winged geese as may have departed on foot. Some of these
will be overtaken, those that have concealed themselves in the nearest
rush-beds; but should any have passed on and gained the stronghold of
the marisma, they are lost.

Such is an ideal morning's work, one of those rare rewards of patience
and skill that occur from time to time. Far differently may the event
fall out. There are mornings when scarce once will that weird
forewarning note, "Gagga, gagga," rejoice the expectant ear with harsh
music, when no chain-like skeins dot and serry the eastern skies, or
ever a greylag appears to remember his wonted haunts. We do not
complain, much less despair. Such are the underlying, fundamental
conditions of wildfowling in all lands. To a nature-lover the wildness
of the scene, with its unique conditions and environment are ever
sufficient reward.

Roughly speaking, from a dozen to a score of geese may be reckoned as a
fair average morning's work for one gun. The following figures, selected
from our game-books, indicate the degree of success that rewards
exceptional skill. In each instance they apply to but one fowler, though
two guns (12-bores) may have been employed.

  1903.                                    Remarks.

  Dec. 4.  29 geese.  Later in day, shot 46 ducks in the
                     _marisma_ close by.
  Dec. 5.  51 geese.  Later, shot 25 ducks, 16 snipe.--B. F. B.


  Nov. 27. 27 geese.  (A second gunner shot but three.)
  Nov. 30. 52 geese.


  Jan. 9.  23 geese.  Westerly gale kept filling hole with sand; half my time
                        spent in new excavation.--W. J. B.


  Dec. 7.             Three guns on sand-hills, 4 + 7 + 22 = 33 geese.
  Dec. 10. 42 geese.  Shots fired, 44.    Later in day, shot 55 ducks,
                      3 snipe = 100 head.--B. F. B.


  Jan. 8.  38 geese.
  Jan. 19. 59 geese.  The record.--(B. F. B.)
  Dec. 29.            H.M. King Alfonso XIII., 6 geese; Marq. de Viana, 5 = 11
                          geese (an unfavourable morning).


  Jan. 7.             Two guns (second at Caño
                      de la Casquera), 12 + 28 = 40 geese.
  Jan. 8.  23 geese.

Possibly the larger totals are unsurpassed in the world's records. By
way of contrast we append what may perchance be discovered in the
note-book of the veracious tyro:--

Went out three mornings at three, emptied three cartridge-bags at
ridiculous ranges, fluked three geese, and scared three thousand.


Where the main object is _close quarters_, ordinary 12-bore guns
suffice. But since geese are very strong and heavily clad, large shot is
a necessity, say No. 1.

Thirty to thirty-five yards should be regarded as the outside range,
with forty yards as an extreme limit. The latter, however, should only
be attempted in exceptional cases, and never when shooting in company.

Should two guns be employed, the case of the second is, of course,
different. It may be loaded with larger shot--say AAA--which is
effective up to fifty yards.

The speed of geese (like that of bustards) is extremely deceptive--as
much so as their apparent nearness when really far out of shot. When in
full flight geese travel as fast as ducks or as driven grouse, though
their relatively slow wing-beats give a totally false impression
thereof. It is a safe rule for beginners to allow _double_ that forward
swing of the gun that may appear needful to inexpert eyes.

Even when geese are slowing down to alight, the impetus of their flight
is still far greater than it appears.

It is a mistake to suppose (as many urge) that geese cannot be killed
coming in, that the shot then "glances off their steely plumage," or
that you "must let them pass over and shoot from behind," etc., etc. The
cause of all these frequent misapprehensions is--the old, old
story--_too far back!_ Hold another foot ahead--or a yard, according to
circumstance--and this dictum will be handsomely proved.

Never deliberately try to kill two at one shot; it results in killing
neither. But by shooting well ahead of _one_ goose that is seen to be
aligned with another beyond, _both_ may thus be secured.





El Travierso, _February 9, 1901._--An hour before dawn we (five guns)
lay echeloned obliquely across a mile of water, the writer's position
being the second out. No. 1 squatted (in six inches of water) between me
and the shore; but, being dissatisfied, moved elsewhere shortly after
day-break, leaving with me two geese and about a dozen ducks. These,
with thirty-six of my own, I set out as decoys. Shortly thereafter I
heard the gaggle of geese, and two, coming from behind, were already so
near that there was only time to change _one_ cartridge to big shot. The
geese passed abeam, quite low and within thirty yards, but six feet
apart--impossible to get them both. Held on; upon seeing that the decoys
were a fraud, the geese spun up vertically, and that _one_ cartridge
secured both. The incident gives opportunity to introduce two rough
sketches pencilled down at the moment. During this day there were
recurrent periods when for ten or fifteen, minutes ducks flew extremely
fast and well--_revoluciones_, our keepers term these sporadic
intermittent movements; then for a full hour or more might follow a
spell of absolute silence and an empty sky. Almost the whole of these
successive flights concentrated on No. 2--such is fowler's luck,--so
that by dusk I had gathered 105 ducks, 3 geese, 3 flamingoes, and 4
godwits; total, 115. The next gun (J. C. C.), though only 200 yards
away, in No. 3, had but 30 ducks; while the others had practically had
no shooting all day. Bertie, however, two miles away at the Desierto,
added 65--bringing the day's total to 268 ducks, 8 geese, etc. Three
guns left to-night.

Next day at the Cañaliza, Bertie and I had 70 ducks by noon, when (by
reason of intense sun-glare at the point) I shifted back to my
yesterday's post--two hours' tramp through sticky mud and water, with a
load of cartridges, ducks, etc. Thereat in one hour (4 to 5 P.M.) I
secured 56 ducks, bringing my total for the two days--a record in my
humble way, but surpassed threefold, as will be seen on following
pages--to over 200 head, and for the party, to precisely 500 (491 ducks
and 9 geese), besides flamingoes, ruffs, grey-plover, etc.

[Illustration: GODWITS]

       *       *       *       *       *

A curious incident occurred on February 11 (1907). But few ducks--and
they all teal--had "flighted" early, and a strong west wind having
"blown" the water, my post was left near dry. Just as I prepared to move
300 yards eastward, a marvellous movement of teal commenced. On the far
horizon appeared three whirling clouds, each perhaps 100 yards in length
by 20 in depth, and all three waltzing and wheeling in marshalled
manoeuvres down channel towards me. To right and left in rhythmical
revolutions swept those masses, doubling again and again upon themselves
with a precision of movement that passes understanding. Each unit of
those thousands, actuated by simultaneous impulse, changed course while
moving at lightning speed; and with that changed course they changed
also their colour, flashing in an instant from dark to silvery white,
while the roar of wings resembled an earthquake.

All three clouds had already passed along the deeper water beyond my
reach when there occurred this strange thing. A peregrine falcon had for
some time been hanging around studying with envious eye the dozen or two
dead ducks stuck up around my post; now he swept away, as it were, to
intercept that feathered avalanche on my right, with the result that the
third and last cloud, being cut off, doubled back in tumultuous
confusion right in my face--what a spectacle! The puny twelve-bore
brought down a perfect shower of teal--probably 30 or more fell all
around me. I gathered 18 as fast as the sticky mud allowed; others
fluttered here and there beyond reach; how many in all escaped to feed
marsh-harriers none can tell.

Another incident with peregrine:--I had just taken post for
night-flighting at the Albacias, when, as dusk fell, a big bird appeared
in the gloom making, with laboured flight, directly towards me. Thinking
(though doubtfully) that it was a goose, I fired. The stranger proved to
be a beautiful adult peregrine, carrying in its claws a marbled duck,
and the pair are now set up in my collection.

       *       *       *       *       *

Figures such as the following are apt to provoke two sentiments: (1)
that they are not true, or that (2), being true, such results must be
easy of attainment. The first we pass over. As regards the second, the
assumption ignores the nature and essential character of wildfowl.

These, being cosmopolitans, remain precisely the same wherever on the
earth's surface they happen to be found. It is their sky they change,
not their natural disposition or their fixed habits, when wildfowl shift
their homes. The difficulty is that not half-a-dozen men in a thousand
understand wildfowl or the supreme difficulty which their pursuit
entails, whether in Spain, England, or elsewhere.

In England, it is true, such results are out of the question, simply
because the country is highly drained, cultivated, and populous. Were it
desired to recover for England those immigrant hosts--the operation
would not be impossible--break down the Bedford Level and flood five
counties! Then you might enjoy in the Midlands such scenes as to-day we
see in Spain.

As a matter of simple fact--and this we state without suspicion of
egotism, or careless should such uncharitably be imputed--the results
recorded below represent even for Spain something that approaches the
human maximum alike in wild-fowling skill, in endurance, and in deadly

That test of individual skill has, it may go without saying, been
demonstrated during all these years times without number. There are not,
within the authors' knowledge, a score of men who have fairly gathered
to their gun in one day 100 ducks in the open marisma. Again, while one
such gun, who is thoroughly efficient, will secure his century, others
(including excellent game-shots) will fail to bag one-tenth of that
number. There can be no question here of "luck" in that long run of

A feature, more valuable than the figures themselves, is the light they
throw upon the varying distribution of the _Anatidae_ (both specifically
and seasonably) in the south of Spain.

  1897. _November 10._--ONE GUN (W. J. B.)
  Dawn at El Puntal                             6 geese
  Forenoon at Santolalla                      128 ducks
  Afternoon  "       "                          2 stags

  1897. _November 25._--LAS NEUVAS (C. D. W. and B. F. B.)
  307 ducks, 53 geese
  (Geese, all the afternoon, came well in to decoys)

  1898. _January_ 29, 30, and 31.--TWO GUNS (W. D. M. and W. J. B.)
  437 ducks, 17 geese


  139 Wigeon
  32 Pintail
  20 Teal
  22 Shovelers
  10 Gadwall
  1 Mallard
  3 Greylag Geese

Total, 224 ducks and 3 _geese_. About one-half shot on natural flight
before 11 A.M.; the rest later, over "decoys." Nice breeze all day.


                       February 22.   February 23.   February 24.

  Pintaila                 49               39             68
  Wigeon                   17               18              5
  Shovelers                41               70              2
  Teal                     10               17              2
  Gadwall                   1                0              3
  Marbled Duck              1                0              0
  Garganey                  1                1              0
  Mallard                   0                0              1
                          ---              ---            ---
                          120              145             81 = 346

On the 24th a succession of pintails came in, all _in pairs_. Almost the
entire bag of that species was made in double shots.


  124 Teal
    7 Pintail
    2 Mallard
    4 Shovelers

Put away many thousands of teal early. These kept coming back in small
lots all day. But the wind held wrong all through, and the _Viento de la
mar_ (= sea-breeze) did not blow up till 5 P.M. Nine camels passed close

1904. _November 8._--LAGUNA DE SANTOLALLA (ONE GUN)

        102 Teal
         14 Pochard
          3 Gadwall
          7 Mallard
          3 Shovelers
          6 Ferruginous Duck
         25 Marbled Duck
  Total 159 Ducks

1905. _November 8._--(P. GARVEY, C. D. W., and B. F. B.)

Santolalla 264 ducks

1905. _December 3._--CAÑO DULCE (ONE GUN)

          3 Greylag Geese
        121 Wigeon
         47 Teal
          3 Pintail
          3 Shovelers
          1 Flamingo
  Total 178


                  Dec.  17, 1905. Feb. 17, 1906.

  Wigeon                235               47
  Shovelers              10               13
  Pintail                18               62
  Gadwall                 6                0
  Teal                    2                6
  Marbled Duck            1                0
  Geese                   1                2
                        ----             ----
                        273              130

The total on December 17 represents the "Record," and was made (as was
that with geese, see p. 131) by B. F. B.

The whole of the above records refer to flight-shooting with a 12-bore

Following is a list of the different ducks shot by one gun during two
consecutive seasons:--

                    1902-3.  1903-4.

  Wigeon             277       230
  Pintail            267        28
  Mallard              9        42
  Gadwall             21        36
  Shovelers          195        32
  Teal               276       269
  Garganey             2         1
  Marbled Duck         4        51
  Pochard[22]          1         0
  Pochard, Crested     1         0
  Tufted Duck          0         1
  White-faced Duck     0         1
  Unenumerated       191         0
                    ----       ---
                    1244       726



In the Spanish ibex Spain possesses not only a species peculiar to the
Peninsula, but a game-animal of the first rank.

Fortunate it is that this sentence can be written in the present tense
instead of (as but a few years ago appeared probable) in the past.

Since we first wrote on this subject in 1893 the Spanish ibex has passed
through a crisis that came perilously near extirpation. Up to the date
named, and for several years later, none of the great landowners of
Spain, within whose titles were included the vast sierras and
mountain-ranges that form its home, had cherished either pride or
interest in the Spanish wild-goat. Some were dimly conscious of its
existence on their distant domains: but that was all. Not a scintilla of
reproach is here inferred. For these mountain-ranges are so remote and
so elevated as often to be almost inaccessible--or accessible only by
organised expedition independent of local aid. Their sole human
inhabitants are a segregated race of goat-herds, every man of them a
born hunter, accustomed from time immemorial to kill whenever
opportunity offered--and that regardless of size, sex, or season. That
the ibex should have survived such persecution by hardy mountaineers
bespeaks their natural cunning. Their survival was due to two
causes--first, the antiquated weapons employed, but, more important, the
astuteness of the game and the "defence" it enjoyed in the stupendous
precipices and snow-fields of those sierras, great areas of which remain
inaccessible even to specialised goat-herds, save only for a limited
period in summer.

But no wild animal, however astute or whatever its "defence," can
withstand for ever perpetual, skilled human persecution. During the
early years of the present century the Spanish ibex appeared doomed
beyond hope. Private efforts over such vast areas were obviously
difficult, if not impossible.

We rejoice to add that at this eleventh hour a new era of existence has
been secured to _Capra hispánica_ at that precise psychological moment
when its scant survivors were struggling in their last throes. The
change is due to graceful action by the landowners in certain great
mountain-ranges; and if our own explorations and our writings on the
subject have also tended to assist, none surely will grudge the authors
this expression of pride in having helped, however humbly, to preserve
not only to Spain, but to the animal-world, one of its handsomest

This new era took different forms in different places. In certain
sierras--those of less boundless area--the owners have undertaken the
preservation of the ibex partly from their realising the tangible asset
this game-beast adds to the value of barren mountain-land, and partly in
view of the legitimate sport that an increase in stock may hereafter

But the main factor which has assured success (and which in itself led
up to the private efforts just named) took origin in the great Sierra de
Grédos. This elevated region is the apex of the long cordillera of
central Spain, the Carpeto-Vetonico range, which extends from Moncayo,
east of Madrid, for some 300 miles through the Castiles and Estremadura,
forming the watershed of 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
sea-board. Along all this extensive cordillera there is no more favoured
resort of ibex than its highest peak, the Plaza de Almanzór, of 2661
metres altitude (= 8700 feet) above sea-level.

In 1905, when the ibex were about at their last gasp, the proprietors of
the _Nucléo central_, which we may translate as the _Heart_ of Grédos,
of their own initiative, ceded to King Alfonso XIII. the sole
rights-of-chase therein, and His Majesty commissioned the Marquis of
Villaviciosa de Asturias to appoint an adequate force of guards.

Six guards were selected from the self-same goat-herds who, up to that
date, had themselves been engaged in hunting to extermination the last
surviving ibex of the sierra, and whom we had ourselves employed during
various expeditions therein.



The ceded area comprised all the best game-country, defined as the
"Circo de Grédos"--including the gorge of the Laguna Grande, the Risco
del Fraile, Risco del Francés, and that of Ameál de Pablo, together with
the wild valley of Las Cinco Lagunas--as shown on rough sketch-plan


(A. _Alto del Casquerázo._

B. _Riscos del Fraile_, with the Hermanitos in front.)]

In 1896 we estimated the stock of ibex at fifty head, and during the
following years it fell far below that--by 1905 almost to zero. In 1907,
after only two years of "sanctuary," it was computed by the guards that
the total exceeded 300 head.

In July 1910 we inquired if it were possible to estimate the present
stock. In a letter (the composition of which would cost some anxiety)
the Guarda of the Madrigal de la Vera--one portion only of the
"sanctuary"--reports: "It is difficult to count the ibex. Sometimes we
see more, sometimes less. Yesterday on the Cabeza Neváda we counted 39
rams and 22 females together. On the other side we counted 29 in one
troop, 19 in another, 12 in another, besides smaller lots. We probably
saw 160 or 170, and we could not see all. Some of the old rams are very
big, and it would be advisable that some be shot." Another report (at
same date) from the "Hoyos del Espino," estimates the ibex there to
exceed 200 head. The two reports go to show that the continuity of the
race is fairly secured.

[A similar cession of sole hunting-rights to the King was simultaneously
made by the owners of the "Central Group" of the Picos de Europa in
Asturias. There are no ibex in that Cantabrian range; the graceful act
was there inspired by a desire to preserve the chamois, animals with
which we deal in another chapter.]

The Spanish ibex is found at six separate points in the Peninsula, each
colony divided from its fellows as effectually as though broad oceans
rolled between. The six localities are:--

(1) The Pyrenees--which we have not visited.

(2) Sierra de Grédos, as above defined, and as described in greater
detail hereafter.

(3) Sierra Moréna, a single isolated colony near Fuen-Caliente, now
preserved (see next chapter).

(4) Sierra Neváda and the Alpuxarras (cf. _infra_).

(5) The mountains along the Mediterranean, which are properly western
outliers of Neváda, but which are usually grouped as the "Serrania de
Ronda," some lying within sight of Gibraltar. Several of the most
important ranges are now preserved by their owners (cf. _infra_).

(6) Valencia, Sierra Martés. This forms a new habitat hitherto
unrecorded, and of which we only became aware through the kindness of
Mr. P. Burgoyne of Valencia, who has favoured us with the annexed photo
of an ibex head killed (along with a smaller example) at Cuevas Altas in
the mountain-region known as Peñas Pardas in that province, February 22,
1909. The dimensions read as follows:--

  Length along front curves           21-3/4 inches
  Circumference at base                7-7/8   "
  Widest span                         16-3/8   "
  Tip to tip                          17       "

Our informant has reason to believe that ibex also exist (or existed
within recent years) in the rugged mountains of Tortosa, farther east in

In the form of its horns the Spanish ibex differs essentially from the
typical ibex of the Alps--now, alas, exterminated save only in the King
of Italy's preserved ranges around the Val d'Aosta. In the true ibex the
horns bend regularly backwards and downwards in a uniform, scimitar-like
curve. In the Spanish species, after first diverging laterally, the
horns are recurved both inward and finally upward. That is, in the first
case they follow a simple semicircular bend, while in the Spanish goats
they form almost a spiral.

A minor point of difference lies in the annular rings or notches which
in the true ibex are rectangular, encircling the horn in front like
steps in a ladder, while in _Capra hispánica_ they rather run obliquely
in semi-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 is the lightly grooved tip, which does not alter.

The horns of old rams (which are often broken or worn down at the tips)
average 26 to 28 inches, specially fine examples reaching 29 inches or
more. The females likewise carry horns, but short and slender, only
measuring 6 or 7 inches.

The six isolated colonies of ibex, separated from each other during
ages, live under totally different natural conditions. For while some,
as stated, exist at 8000, 10,000, or 12,000 feet altitude, others occupy
hills of much more moderate elevations--say 4000 to 6000 feet, some of
which are bush-clad to their summits. Under such circumstances there
have naturally developed divergencies not only in habits, but in form
and size. Particularly does this apply to the horns, and for that reason
we give a series of photos of typical examples from various points.

The ibex of the Pyrenees is certainly the largest race, and has been
entitled by scientists _Capra pyrenaica_; those of the centre and south
of Spain being differentiated as _C. hispánica_. We attach less
importance to specific distinctions, but leave the illustrations of
specimens to speak for themselves. It may, however, be remarked that
examples from the two outside extremes (Pyrenees and Neváda) most
closely assimilate in their flattened and compressed form of horn.

Neither in Grédos nor Neváda are the rock-formations so precipitous as
in the Picos de Europa in Asturias--described later in this book. They
present, nevertheless, difficulties possibly insuperable to mere hunters
unskilled in the technique of climbing. Rock-climbing forms a recognised
branch of "mountaineering," but of that science the authors (with sorrow
be it confessed) have never been enamoured. To us, mountains, merely as
such, have not appealed. But they form the home of alpine creatures, the
study and acquisition of which were objects that no terrestrial obstacle
could entirely forbid, and we enjoy retrospective pride in having so far
surmounted those antecedent terrors as to have secured a few specimens
of this, the most "impossible" of European trophies--the Spanish ibex.

An awkward situation is a subrounded wall of rough granulated granite
blocking our course and traversed obliquely by an up-trending fissure
barely the breadth of hempen soles, its inclination outward, and the
"tread" carpeted with slippery wet moss still half frozen. It is seldom
what one can _see_ that gives pause, but the fear of the unseen. Here we
hesitate by reason of the uncertainty of what may confront beyond that
grim curve. The fissure might cease; to turn back would clearly be
impossible. Impatient of delay our crag-born guide--a _homo rupestris_,
prehensile of foot--seized the gun, and with a muttered ejaculation that
might have included scorn, in three strides had skipt around the dreaded
corner--of course we followed.

Snow-slopes tipped at steep angles never inspire confidence in the
unaxed climber, especially when the surface is half melted, revealing
green ice beneath, and when the disappearing curve conceals from view
what dangers may lurk below. Again a suddenly interrupted ledge--say
where some great block has become disintegrated from the hanging
face--necessitates a sort of nervy jump quite calculated to shorten
one's days, even if it does not precipitately terminate them.

The ibex is always nocturnal. On the great cordilleras it spends its day
asleep on some rock-ledge isolated amidst snow-fields, its security
doubly assured by sentinels, whenever such are deemed necessary: or,
lower down, in the caves of a sheer precipice. Only after sun-down do
the ibex descend, and never, even then, so far as timber-line. On these
loftier sierras their home by day is confined to rock and snow; by night
to that zone of moss, heath, and alpine vegetation that intervenes
between the snow-line and topmost levels of scrub and conifer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such are the ibex of the loftier ranges--Grédos and Neváda. But in the
south, wild-goats are found on mountains of inferior elevation, 4000 to
6000 feet, many of which are jungled--some even forested--to their
summits, and there they cannot disdain the shelter of the scrub. We have
hunted them (within sight of the Mediterranean) in ground that appeared
more suitable to roe-deer, and have seen the "rootings" of wild-pig
within the ibex-holding area.

In such situations the wild-goats take quite kindly to the scrub,
forming regular "lairs" wherein they lie-up as close as hares or roe.
Amidst the brushwood that clothes the highland--heaths and broom,
genista, rhododendron, lentiscus, and a hundred other shrubs--they rest
by day and browse by night without having to descend or shift their
quarters at all. On these lower hills the ibex owe their safety, and
survival, to the vast area of covert, and, in less degree, to their
comparatively small numbers. So few are they and so big their home, they
are considered "not worth hunting."

During summer the ibex feed on the mountain-grasses, rush, and flowering
shrubs which at that season adorn the alpine solitudes; later, on the
berries and wild-fruits of the hill. By autumn they attain their highest
condition--the beards of the rams fully developed and their brown pelts
glossy and almost uniform in colour. At this period (September to
October) the rutting season occurs and fighting takes place--the
champions rearing on hind-legs for a charge, and the crash of opposing
horns resounds across the corries of the sierra. Even in spring memories
of the combative instinct survive, for we have watched, in April, a pair
of veterans sparring at each other for half an hour.

The young are born in April and soon follow their dams--graceful
creatures with unduly large hind-legs, like brown lambs. One is the
usual number, though two are not infrequent. The kid remains with its
dam upwards of a year--that is, till after a second family has been

At that season (April to May) the ibex are changing their coats. The
males lose the flowing beard and assume a hoary piebald colour,
contrasting with the dark of legs and quarters. The muzzle is warm cream
colour and the lower leg (below knee) prettily marked with black and
white. On the knee is a callosity, or round patch of bare hardened skin.
The horns of yearling males are thicker and heavier than those of adult

Though the hill-shepherds in summer drive out their herds of goats to
pasture on the higher sierra, where they may come in contact with their
wild congeners, yet no interbreeding has ever been known; nor can the
wild ibex be domesticated. Wild kids that are captured invariably die
before attaining maturity. The horns of the herdsmen's goats differ in
type from those of the ibex, which can never have been the progenitor of
the race of goats now domesticated in Spain.

Though the personal aroma of an ibex-ram is strong--rather more
offensive than that of a vulture--yet no trace of this remains after
cooking. The flesh is brown and tough, but devoid of any special flavour
or individuality--that is, when subjected to the rude cookery of the




The tourist speeding along the Andalucian railways and surveying from
his carriage-window the olive-clad and altogether mild-looking slopes of
the Sierra Moréna, will form no adequate, much less a romantic,
conception of that great mountain-system of which he sees but the
southern fringe. Yet, in fact, the train hurries him past within a few
leagues of perhaps the finest big-game country in Spain--of
mountain-solitudes and a thousand jungled corries, wherein lurk fierce
wolves and giant boars, together with one of the grandest races of red
deer yet extant in Europe.

True, the Sierra Moréna lacks both the altitudes and the stupendous
rock-ridges that characterise all other Spanish sierras--from Neváda and
Grédos to the Pyrenees. It consists rather of a congeries of jumbled
mountain-ranges of no great elevations, but of infinite ramification,
and lacking (save at two points only) those bolder features that most
appeal to the eye. Were the Spanish ranges all of the contour of Moréna,
the name "Sierra" would not have applied. It is, moreover, a unilateral
range--a buttress, banked up on its northern side by the high-lands of
La Mancha, resembling in that respect the well-known Drakensberg of the

The Sierra Moréna, typical yet apart, divides for upwards of 300 miles
the sunny lowlands of Andalucia from the bare, bleak uplands of La
Mancha on the north. And in vertical depth (if we may include the
contiguous Montes de Toledo) the range extends but little short of 150

As a homogeneous mountain-system, Moréna thus covers a space equal to
the whole of England south of the Thames, with a central northern
projection which would embrace all the Midland Counties as far as

[In any survey of the Sierra Moréna, it is appropriate to include the
adjoining Montes de Toledo. They, as just stated, form a north-trending
pyramidal apex based on the main chain and presenting identical
characteristics, both physical and faunal, though of lower general
elevation. The Montes de Toledo, in short, are an intricate complication
of low subrounded hills--rather than mountains--tacked on to the north
of Moréna, all scrub-clad and inhabited by the same wild beasts. Toledan
stags exhibit the same magnificent cornual development, and there is
evidence of seasonal intermigration as between two adjacent regions only
divided by the valley of the Guadiana--a shortage in one area being
sometimes found to be compensated by a corresponding increase in the
other. Roe-deer are more abundant in the lower range; but the sole
clean-cut faunal distinction lies in the presence of wild fallow-deer in
the Montes de Toledo--these animals being quite unknown in Moréna.[23]]

May we digress on a cognate subject? The Sierra Neváda, though so near
(at one point the two ranges are merely separated by a narrow gap yclept
Los Llanos de Jaén), yet presents totally divergent natural phenomena.

There are points in Moréna--say from the heights above
Despeñaperros--whence the two systems can be surveyed at once. Behind
you, on the north, roll away, ridge beyond ridge, the endless rounded
skylines of Moréna--colossal yet never abrupt. In front, to the
south--apparently within stone's-throw--rise the stupendous snow-peaks
of Neváda--jagged pinnacles piercing the heavens to nigh 12,000 feet.

These peaks may appear within stone's-throw, or say an easy day's ride,
though that is an optical illusion. But narrow as it is, that gap of
Jaén divides two mountain-regions utterly dissimilar in every attribute,
whether as to the manner of their birth in remote ages and the
landscapes they present to-day.

Faunal distinctions are also conspicuous. In Neváda there are found
neither deer of any kind (whether red, roe, or fallow) nor wild-boar,
whereas it forms the selected home of ibex and lammergeyer, both of
which are conspicuous by their absence from Moréna, save for a single
segregated colony of wild-goats near Fuen-Caliente.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although the Sierra Moréna partakes rather of massive than of abrupt
character, yet there occur at a couple of points outcrops of naked rock
of real grandeur. Such, for example, is Despeñaperros, through whose
gorges the Andalucian railway threads a semi-subterranean course. The
very name Despeñaperros signifies in that wondrously adaptive Spanish
tongue nothing less than that its living rocks threaten to hurl to death
and destruction even dogs that venture thereon.

Another interpretation suggests that in olden days, such were the
pleasantries of the Moors, it was not dogs, but Christians (since to a
Moor the terms were synonymous) that were hurled to their death from the
_riscos_ of Despeñaperros.

These rock-formations are superbly abrupt. Great detached crags, massive
and moss-marbled, jut perpendicular from ragged steeps, or vast
monoliths protrude, each in rectilineal outline so exact that one
wonders if these are truly of nature's handiwork, and not some fabled
fortalice of old-time Goth or Moor. Despite its striking contour,
however, its crags and precipices are too scattered and detached (with
traversable intervals between) to attract such a rock-lover as the ibex,
and no wild-goat has ever occupied the gorges of Despeñaperros.

A similar rock-region, but more extensive and continuous, is found near
Fuen-Caliente--by name the Sierra Quintána. This range, though its
elevations barely exceed 7000 feet, forms the only spot in the Sierra
Moréna at which the Spanish ibex retains a foothold.

Thereat the writer in 1901 endured one of those evil experiences which
from time to time befall those who seek hunting-grounds in the wilder
corners of the earth. It was in mid-February that, forced by bitter
extremity of weather, we fain sought refuge in the hamlet of
Fuen-Caliente clinging at 5700 feet on the steep of the sierra, as
crag-martins fix their clay-built nests on some rock-face. Fuen-Caliente
dates back to Roman days. Warm springs, as its name implies, here burst
from riven rock, and stone baths, built by no modern hand, attest a
bygone enterprise. To this day, we are told, the baths of Fuen-Caliente
attract summer-visitors; we trust their health benefits thereby. Surely
some counter-irritation is needed to balance the perils of a sojourn
within that unsavoury eyrie. We write feelingly, even after all these
years, and after suffering assorted tribulations in many a rough
spot--Fuen-Caliente is bad to beat.

Having tents and full camp-outfit, we had thought to live independent of
the village _posada_. One night, however, as we climbed the rising
ground that leads to the higher sierra there burst in our faces an
easterly gale (_levante_), with driving snow-storms that even a mule
could not withstand. Nothing remained but to seek shelter in the village

Here my bedroom measured twelve feet by four, with a door at each end.
The door proper was reached by a vertical ladder; the second might
perhaps be differentiated as a window, but could only be distinguished
as such by its smaller size--both being made of solid wood. Thus, were
the window open, snow swirled through as freely as on the open sierra;
if shut, we lived in darkness dimly relieved by the flicker of a
_mariposa_, that is, a cotton-wick reposing in a saucer of olive-oil.
Under such conditions, with other nameless horrors, we passed three days
and nights while gales blew and snow swirled by incessant.

On the fourth morning the wind fell, and snow had given place to fine
rain. These _levantes_ usually last either three or nine days; so,
thinking this one had blown itself out, we packed the kit and set out in
renewed search of ibex, Caraballo, with accustomed forethought, buying a
bunch of live chickens, which hung by their legs from the after-pannier
of the mule. On the limited area of Quintána, ibex offer the best chance
of stalking.

Mules are marvellous mountaineers. The places that animal surmounted
to-day passed belief. Two donkeys that belonged to the local hunters,
Abad and Brijido, who accompanied us, soon got stuck, and had to be left

By three o'clock we, mule and all, had reached the highest ridge of
Quintána, and encamped within a few hundred feet of its top-most

To set up a tent among rocks is never easy; even specially made iron
tent-pegs find no hold, and guy-ropes have to be made fast, as securely
as may be, to any projecting point.

Hardly had the sun gone down, than the easterly gale blew up again with
redoubled force. All night it howled through our narrow gorge and around
its pinnacled rock-minarets, with the result that at 11 P.M. the
ill-secured guys gave way, and down came our tent with a crash. Two
hours were spent (in drenching rain) remedying this; and when day broke,
an icy _neblina_ (fog) enveloped the sierra, shutting out all view
beyond a few yards. The cold was intense, and a little dam we had
engineered the night before was frozen thick. The fog held all that day
and the next. Nothing could be done, though we persisted in going out
each day, as in duty bound, for a few hours' turn among the crags--how
we prayed for _one_ hour's clear interval that might have given that
glorious sight we sought! At dusk the second night snow fell heavily,
and later on a thunderstorm added to our joys. Frequent and vivid
flashes of lightning lit up the darkness, and caused the surviving
chickens (which in common charity we had had tethered inside the tent)
to crow so incessantly that sleep was impossible. Presently we noticed a
sharp fall in temperature--the men had brought in a cube of ice, the
solidified contents of one of our camp-buckets, which they proposed to
melt at a little fire kept burning in the tent! But this was too much,
even though it meant "no coffee for breakfast."

The frost and fog continuing, on the third morning the men proposed we
should move lower down the hill, to some _cortijo_ they knew of, thereat
to await milder weather.

By this time, however, the cold had penetrated deep into throat and
chest, which felt raw and inflamed, leaving the writer almost
speechless. We therefore decided to abandon the whole venture, and
struck camp, still wrapt in that opaque shroud of driving sleet.

Crossing over the highest ridge of the sierra, between crags of which
only the bases were visible, we descended on the south side; here we
organised a "drive" amid the jungles that clothe the lower slopes. Two
lynxes and three pigs were reported as seen by the beaters. Only one of
the latter, however, came to the gun, and proved to be a sow, bigger by
half than any wild-pig we had then seen in Spain. We regretted having no
means of weighing this beast, which we estimated at well over 200 lbs.
clean. A remarkable cast antler picked up at this spot carried four
points on the main beam, as well as four on top--length 34-1/8 inches,
by 5-3/4 inches basal circumference.

The "defences" of the ibex in the Sierra Quintána lie among some fairly
big crags forming the eastern and southern faces of the range. The
shooting at that time was free; hence the goats were never left in peace
by the mountaineers, who all carried guns, and used them whenever a
chance presented itself. The result was that the few surviving goats had
become severely nocturnal in habit, spending the entire day in caves and
crevices in the faces of sheer and naked precipices.

Some of their eyries appeared absolutely inaccessible to any creature
unendowed with wings. One cave, though it had no visible approach, was
situate only some eight or ten feet above a ledge in the perpendicular
rock-face. One morning at dawn two ibex having been seen to enter this
cave, at once a couple of the wiry goat-herds thought to reach them from
the ledge below, one lad actually climbing on to the other's shoulders
as he stood on that narrow shelf. In its rush to escape, however, the
leading ibex upset the precarious balance, and the poor lad was
precipitated among the tumbled rocks in the abyss below.

Riding homewards through inhospitable brush-clad hills towards the
railway (forty miles away), we put up one night at a village named, with
unconscious irony, Cardeña Real. In the small hours broke out another
terrific disturbance--shrieks, squeals, barking--all the dogs gone mad.
The night was pitch-dark with rain falling in torrents; but next morning
we ascertained that a pack of wolves had carried off the landlord's pigs
from their stye, not fifteen yards away--indeed, three mangled porkers
lay piled up against the wall of our hovel.

The contingency of pigs being worse off than ourselves had not
previously occurred to us. Thus ended, in a cycle of catastrophe, our
first wrestle with _Capra hispánica_ in Moréna; but initial failure only
served to stimulate further efforts later on. Winter, moreover, is no
season for camping in these high sierras; May is more favourable, but
the early autumn is best of all.

At this period (1901) the surviving ibex had fallen to a mere handful.
Fortunately here, as elsewhere in Spain, there was aroused, within the
next five years, the tardy interest of Spanish landowners to save them.



Length 26-1/2 in.    Circum. 10-1/8 in.    Tips, 22-1/8 in.


Length 29-3/4 in.    Circum. 8-1/8 in.    Tips, 20-7/8 in.



The owner of the sierras above mentioned (the Marquis del Mérito) has
favoured us with latest details respecting both the ibex and other wild
beasts therein.

     The wild-goat (he writes) is the most difficult of all game to
     shoot, proof of which is afforded by the fact that in the lands
     which I hold in the Sierra Quintána (although until recent years
     these were unpreserved and in the neighbourhood of a village where
     every man was a hunter) yet the local shooters had not succeeded in
     exterminating the species. Its means of defence, over and above its
     keen sight and scent, consist chiefly in the inaccessible natural
     caves of those mountains, in which the wild-goats invariably seek
     refuge the moment they find themselves pursued. In these caves the
     goats were accustomed to pass the entire day, never coming out to
     feed except during the night.

     To-day (since free shooting has ceased) they begin to show up a
     little during daylight, and in other ways demonstrate a returning
     confidence. Nevertheless they display not the slightest inclination
     to abandon their old tendency to betake themselves, immediately on
     the appearance of danger, to the vast crags and precipices which
     lie towards the east of the sierra, and which crags afford them
     almost complete security. The most effective method of securing a
     specimen to-day is, as you know, by stalking (_resécho_). For this
     animal, when it finds itself suddenly surprised by a human being,
     is less startled than deer, or other game, and usually allows
     sufficient time for careful aim to be taken--indeed, it seems to be
     the more alarmed when it has lost sight of the intruder.

     The rutting season occurs in November and December, and the kids,
     usually one or two in number, are born in May, the same as domestic
     goats. These kids have a terrible enemy in the golden eagles, since
     their birth coincides with the period when these rapacious birds
     have their own broods to feed, and when they become more savage
     than ever. To reduce the damage thus done, I am now paying to the
     guards a reward for every eagle destroyed, and this last spring
     took myself a nest containing one eaglet, shooting both its

     The dimensions of horns I am unable to put down with precision, but
     there was killed here an ibex (which was mounted by Barrasóna at
     Córdoba) measuring 85 centimetres in length (= 33-1/2 inches). Of
     the last, which was killed by Lord Hindlip, as shown in photo I
     send, the length of horns was 68 centimetres (= 26-3/4 inches).

The dimensions of the best ibex head obtained by us in this sierra were:
Length, 28 inches; basal circumference, 8-1/4 inches.


These animals, which perpetrate incredible destruction to game, are very
abundant in Moréna, yet rarely shot in the _monterías_ (mountain-drives).
This is not due to any special astuteness of the wolf, but simply
because, while waiting for deer, sportsmen naturally lie very low, thus
giving opportunity to wolves to pass unseen; while, on the other hand,
when boars only are expected, and sportsmen therefore remain less
concealed, the wolf is apt to detect the danger before arriving within

In May and June the she-wolves produce their young; but it is difficult
to discover these broods, since at that period they betake themselves to
remote regions far away from the haunts frequented in normal times.

There is, however, one method of discovering them which is known to the
mountaineers as the _otéo_, or watching for them over-night, thus noting
precisely where each she-wolf gives tongue. If on the following morning
the howl is repeated at the same spot, it is a practical certainty that
that wolf will have her brood in that immediate neighbourhood.

Thereupon at daybreak the hunters proceed to examine every bush and
brake in the marked spot, which invariably consists either of strong
brushwood or broken rocks. All around the actual lair for a hundred
yards the ground is traced with footprints and scratchings, which
usually lead to its discovery; but should it not be found that day, it
is completely useless to seek for it on the following, since the moment
that a she-wolf perceives that her whelps are being sought, she at once
removes them far away. To exterminate wolves, strychnine is extensively
used, giving positive results.[24] At the same time it is always better
to supplement its use by searching out with practical men the broods of
wolf-cubs at their proper season.

The photo facing p. 158 shows a magnificent old dog-wolf, scaling 93
lbs. dead-weight, which we obtained in the Sierra Moréna, near Córdoba,
in March 1909.


This animal breeds in April and May, and the number of young is
generally two. If captured, the majority of the young lynxes die at the
period when they change from a milk diet to solid food, and one may
imagine that the same thing happens in the case of the wild lynxes,
since otherwise it is difficult to explain why an animal, whose only
enemy is mankind, should remain so scarce. Their food consists of
partridges, rabbits, and other small game.


With the red deer of these mountains, as elsewhere in Spain, the rut
(_celo_) depends upon the autumn, which season may be earlier or later;
but the _celo_ always takes place between mid-September and mid-October.
The calves are born at end of May or early in June, and suckled by their
mothers till the following autumn.

The casting of the horns, together with the change of hair, varies in
date, depending on the state of health in each individual. It generally
occurs in May, but in very robust animals we have seen cases in April,
and in the _barétos_, or stags of one year, in March. The development of
the new horn is complete by the end of July, and in August occurs the
shedding of the velvet. The horn at first is of a white bone-colour, but
gradually darkens, the final colour depending on the nature of the bush
frequented, the blackest being found in those stags which inhabit the
gum-cistus (_jarales_).

Although it is currently believed among country folk that the age of a
stag can be determined by the number of his points, this is incorrect,
the horn development depending solely on the robustness of the animal.
It frequently happens that a stag carries fewer points than he did the
year before.

When the hinds are about to bring forth, they isolate themselves,
seeking spots where the brushwood is less dense, and leaving the calf
concealed in some bush. The habits of a hind when giving her offspring
its first lessons in the arts of concealment and caution are interesting
to watch. Shortly after daybreak the mother suddenly performs a series
of wild, convulsive bounds, leaping away over the bush as though in
presence of visible peril, thus alarming the youngster and teaching it
to seek cover for itself. This performance is repeated at intervals
until the calf has learnt to lie-up, when the hind will do the same, but
at some distance, although in view. She only allows her progeny to
accompany her when it has acquired sufficient strength and agility to
follow, which is the case some twenty or thirty days after birth.

Having noted the spoor of a single hind at the breeding-time, one may
follow to the spot where she is suckling her young. But so soon as one
observes the prints of these spasmodic jumps with which the mother
instils into her offspring a sense of caution (as above described), one
may then begin leisurely to examine every bush round about. In one of
these the calf will be found lying curled up without a bed and with its
nose resting on its hip.[25] It will at first offer some slight
resistance, but once captured, may be set free with the certainty that
it will not make any attempt to escape.

The only enemies the full-grown stag has to fear are mankind and the
wolf, but chiefly the latter, since not only do single wolves destroy in
this sierra large numbers of the newly born calves, but, worse still,
when a troop of wolves have once tasted venison they commence habitually
to hunt both hinds and even the younger stags, which they persistently
follow day after day till the deer are absolutely worn out. They then
pull them down, the final scene usually occurring in some deep ravine or
mountain burn.

The calves of red deer, as happens with ibex kids, are also preyed upon
by golden eagles.


As regards sport, the best results are only attainable by _monterías_,
or extended drives, assuming that the district is thickly jungled, and
generally of elevated situation. There is also a system of shooting at
the "roaring-time," but that is uncertain owing to the rapidity of the
stag's movements, the thick bush, and the risk of his getting the wind.
Practised trackers are in the habit of hunting _á la greña_, which
consists in observing the deer at daybreak, selecting a good stag, and
afterwards following his spoor at midday (at which hour deer, while
enjoying their siesta, are quite apt to lie close) and shooting as he
springs from his lair (_al arrancár_).



Points 16. Length 38-3/4 in.


Points 16. Length 40-5/8 in.]


Points 15. Length 37-1/2 in.


Points 14. Length 36-3/4 in.]

A really big stag is nearly always found alone, or should he have a
companion, the second will also be an animal of large size. Such stags
are never seen with hinds, excepting in the autumn (_celo_).

The system of the _montería_, or mountain-drive, is described in detail
in the following chapter.


  Measured by the Authors, or other stated Authority.

  |            |         |       Width.      |          |                |
  |  Locality. | Length. +---------+---------+ Circum-  |   Authority.   |
  |            |         |  Tips.  | Inside. | ference. |                |
  |            |  ins.   |   ins.  |  ins.   |  ins.    |                |
  | Moréna     | 33-1/2  | ...     |  ...    |  ...     | Marq. Mérito   |
  |            |         |         |         |          |       (p. 158).|
  | Pyrenees   | 31      | 26-1/2  |  ...    |  8-3/4   | Sir V. Brooke. |
  | Neváda     | 29-3/4  | 22-1/4  |  20-7/8 |  8-1/4   | At Madrid.     |
  | Grédos[26] | 29-1/4  | 23-1/4  |  ...    |  9-1/2   | Authors.       |
  |   Do.      | 29-1/8  | 23-1/8  |  21     |  9-7/8   | M. Amezúa.     |
  |   Do.      | 29      | 22-1/2  |  ...    |  9-1/4   | Authors.       |
  | Pyrenees   | 29      | 23      |  ...    |  10      | Sir V. Brooke. |
  | Neváda[26] | 29      | 23      |  18-3/4 |  9       | Authors.       |
  |   Do.      | 28-1/4  | 24-1/2  |  22     |  9-1/16  |   Do.          |
  | Moréna     | 28-1/2  | ...     |  ...    |  8-1/4   |   Do.          |
  | Bermeja    | 28      | 19      |  ...    |  8-1/4   |   Do.          |
  | Moréna     | 26-3/4  | ...     |  ...    |  ...     | Lord Hindlip.  |
  | Grédos     | 26-1/2  | ...     |  22-1/8 |  10-1/8  | At Madrid.     |
  | Pyrenees   | 26      | 21      |  ...    |  10      | Sir V. Brooke. |
  | Sa. Blanca | 26      | ...     |  ...    |  8-3/4   | P. Larios.     |
  | Grédos     | 24-1/8  | ...     |  ...    |  8-1/4   | Authors.       |
  | Pyrenees   | 22-3/4  | 18-3/4  |  ...    |  9-1/2   | E. N. Buxton.  |
  | Sa. Blanca | 22      | ...     |  14     |  7-3/4   | P. Larios.     |
  | Valencia   | 21-3/4  | 16-3/8  |  17     |  7-7/8   | P. Burgoyne.   |


SIERRA MORÉNA (_Continued_)


The mountain deer of the Sierra Moréna are the grandest of their kind in
Spain, and will compare favourably with any truly wild deer in
Europe.[27] The drawings, photographs, and measurements given in this
chapter prove so much, but no mere numerals convey an adequate
conception of these magnificent harts, as seen in the full glory of life
bounding in unequal leaps over some rocky pass, or picking more
deliberate course up a stone stairway.

Massive as they are in body (weighing, say, 300 lbs. clean), yet even so
the giant antlers appear almost disproportionate in length and

The whole Sierra Moréna being clad with brushwood and jungle, thicker in
places, but nowhere clear, shooting is practically confined to "driving"
on that extensive scale termed, in Spanish phrase, _montería_.

Before describing two or three typical experiences of our own in this
sierra, we attempt a sketch of the system of the _montería_ as practised
throughout Spain.


March, 1909--weight 93 lb.]



The area of operations being immense and clad with almost continuous
thicket, it is customary to employ two or three separate packs (termed
_reháles_, or _recóbas_), counting in all as many as seventy or eighty
hounds. The extra packs--beyond that belonging to the host--are brought
by shooting guests, and each pack has its own huntsman (_perréro_), whom
alone his own hounds[28] will follow or recognise. The huntsmen
(though not the beaters) are mounted, and each carries a musket and a
_caracóla_, or hunting-horn formed of a big sea-shell. The forelegs of
the horses, where necessary--especially in Estremadura--are enveloped in
leather sheaths (_fundas de cuero_) to protect them from the terrible
thorns and the spikes of burnt cistus which pierce and cut like knives.
The best dogs are _podencos_ of the bigger breeds, also crosses between
_podencos_ and mastiffs, and between mastiffs and _alanos_, the latter a
race of rough-haired bull-dogs largely used in Estremadura for
"holding-up" the boar.

The huntsmen with their packs, and the beaters, usually start with the
dawn, sometimes long before, dependent on the distance to be traversed
to their points, which may be ten or twelve miles. Till reaching the
cast-off, hounds are coupled up in pairs: a collar fitted with a bell
(_cencerro_) is then substituted, and the alignment being
completed--each pack at its appointed spot--at a given hour the beat

On every occasion when a game-beast is raised a blank shot is fired to
encourage the hounds, and the who-hoops of the huntsmen behind resound
for miles around. Should the animal hold a forward course (as desired),
the hounds are shortly recalled by the _caracólas_, or hunting-horns
aforesaid, and the beat is then reformed and resumed.

Meanwhile--far away at remote posts prearranged--the firing-line
(_armáda_) has already occupied its allotted positions; the guns most
often disposed along the crests of some commanding ridge, sometimes
defiled in a narrow pass of the valley far below.

Should the number of guns be insufficient to command the whole front,
the expedient of placing a second firing-line (termed the _travérsa_),
projected into the beat, and at a right angle from the centre of the
first line, is sometimes effective.

It may occur to those accustomed to deal with mountain-game on a large
scale that the chance of moving animals with any sort of accuracy
towards a scant line of guns scattered over vast areas must be remote.
True, the number of guns--even ten or twelve--is necessarily
insufficient, but here local knowledge and the skill of Spanish
mountaineers (by nature among the best _guerrilleros_ on earth) comes
effectively into play. In practice it is seldom that the best "passes"
are not commanded.

In the higher ranges skylines are frequently pierced by nicks or
"passes" (termed _portillas_) sufficiently marked as to suggest, even to
a stranger possessed of an eye for such things, the probable lines of
retreat for moving game. But "passes" are not always conspicuous, nor
are all skylines of broken contour. On the contrary, there frequently
present themselves long summits that to casual glance appear wholly
uniform. Here comes to aid that local intuition referred to, nor will it
be found lacking. Many a long hill-ridge apparently featureless may (and
often does) include several well-frequented passes. Some slight sense of
disappointment may easily lurk in one's breast in surveying one's
allotted post to perceive not a single sign of "advantage" within its
radius--or "jurisdiction," as Spanish keepers quaintly put it. Yet it
may be after all--and probably is--the apex of a congeries of converging
watercourses, glens, or other accustomed _salidas_ (outlets), all of
which are invisible in the unseen depths on one's front; but which
salient points in cynegetic geography are perfectly appreciated by our

The brushwood of Moréna consists over vast areas--many hundreds of
square miles--of the gum-cistus, a sticky-leaved shrub that grows
shoulder-high on the stoniest ground. Wherever a slightly more generous
soil permits, the cistus is interspersed and thickened with
rhododendron, brooms, myrtle, and a hundred cognate plants. On the
richer slopes and dells there crowd together a matted jungle of lentisk
and arbutus, white buck-thorn and holly, all intertwined with vicious
prehensile briar and woodbine, together with heaths, genista, giant
ferns, and gorse of a score of species. Watercourses are overarched by
oleanders, and the chief trees are cork-oak and ilex, wild-olive,
juniper, and alder, besides others of which we only know the Spanish
names, quejigos, algarrobas, agracejis, etc.

Naturally, in such rugged broken ground as the sierras, where the guns
are protected by intervening heights, shooting is permissible in any
direction, whether in front or behind, and even sometimes along the line
itself. A survival of savage days, when beaters didn't count, is
suggested by a refrain of the sierra:--

    Más vale matár un Cristiano
    Que no dejár ir una res--

    (Rather should a Christian die
    Than let a head of game pass by.)

A word here as to the game and its habits. The lairs of wild-boar are
invariably in the densest jangle and on the shaded slope where no sun
ever penetrates. There is always at hand, moreover, a ready _salida_, or
exit, along some deep watercourse or by a rocky ravine or gully--rarely
do these animals show up in the open, or even in ground of scanty
covert. It is usually the strongest arbutus-thickets (_madronales_) that
they select for their quarters.

It is seldom that wild-boar are "held-up" by the dogs during a beat--the
old tuskers never.

Deer, on the contrary, avoid the denser jungle, lying-up in more open
brushwood and invariably on the sunny slope. Though their "beds"
(_camas_) may be on the lower ground, they invariably seek the heights
when disturbed, and then select a course through the lighter
cistus-scrub or across open screes, knowing instinctively that thus they
can travel fastest and best throw off the pursuing pack.

Owing to the wide areas of each beat, a _montería_ in the sierras is
confined to a single drive each day, the guns usually reaching their
posts about eleven o'clock, and remaining therein till late in the
afternoon. In the lowlands, as already described, four, five, and even
six _batidas_ (drives) are sometimes possible during the day.


A glorious ride amid splendid mountain scenery all lit up with southern
sunshine--the narrow bridle-track now forms a mere tunnel hewn out of
impending foliage; anon it descends abrupt rock-faces, in zigzags like a
corkscrew, apt to make nerves creep, when one false step would
precipitate horse and rider into a half-seen torrent hundreds of feet
below. Some eight miles of this, and by eleven o'clock we have reached
our positions at Los Llanos del Peco.

These positions extend for over a league in length (there are twelve
guns), occupying the crests and "passes" of a lofty ridge whence one
enjoys a bird's-eye view of a world of wild mountain-land.

My own post commanded a panorama of almost the whole day's operation,
excepting only that on my immediate front there yawned a deep ravine
(_cañada_) into the full depth of which I could not see.

Already within a few minutes one had become aware, by a far-distant
shot, and by the echoing note of the bugle faintly borne on a gentle
northerly breeze, that the beat had begun. At dawn that morning the four
huntsmen, each with his pack, had left the lodge, and are now encircling
some seven or eight miles of covert on our front, two-thirds of which
lay beneath my gaze.

For five hours I occupied that _puesto_ sitting between convenient
rocks, and hardly a measurable spell of the five hours but I was held
alert, either by the actual sight of game afoot--far distant, it is
true--or by the shots and bugle-calls of the hunters and the music of
their packs--all signs of game on the move.


It is instructive, though rarely possible, watch wild game thus, when
danger threatens, and to observe the wiles by which they seek
escape--doubling back on their own tracks till nearly face to face with
the baying _podencos_, and then, by a smart flank-movement, skirting
round behind the pack, till actually between the latter and the
following huntsmen; then lying flat, awaiting till perchance the latter
has gone by! That is our stag's plan--bold and comprehensive--yet it
fails when that huntsman, biding his time, perceives that his pack have
overrun the scent and recalls them to make quite sure of that
intervening bit of bush--poor staggie! Rarely indeed, even in
mountain-lands, do such chances of watching the whole play (and
bye-play) occur as those we enjoyed to-day on the Llanos del Peco. Shots
are apt to be quite difficult, as all bushes and many trees are in full
leaf (January) and the _rayas_, or rides cut out along the
shooting-line, barely twenty yards broad. To-day, moreover, the wind
shifting from north to east operated greatly to our
disadvantage--practically, in effect, ruined the plan.

[Illustration: WILD-BOAR--WEIGHT 200 LBS., CLEAN.]

[Illustration: THE RECORD HEAD--43 INCHES--LUGAR NUEVO, NOV. 14, 1909.


The first stag that came my way had already touched the tainted breeze
ere I saw him--being slightly deaf (the effects of quinine) I had not
heard his approach. Instantly he crossed the _raya_, 100 yards away,
in two enormous bounds. There was just time to see glorious antlers with
many-forked tops ere he dived from sight, plunging into ten-foot scrub.

I had fired both barrels, necessarily with but an apology for an aim and
the second purely "at a venture." Three minutes later resounded the
tinkling _cencerros_ (bells) of the _podencos_, and when two of these
hounds had followed the spoor ahead, all _mute_, then I knew that both
bullets had spent their force on useless scrub.


Fortune favoured. Half an hour afterwards, a second stag followed. This
time a gentle rustle in the bush, and one clink of a hoof on rock had
caught my faulty ear. Then coroneted antlers showed up from the depths
below, and so soon as the great brown body came in view, a bullet on the
shoulder at short range dropped him dead. This was an average stag,
weighing 255 lbs. clean, but although "royal," carried a smaller head
than that first seen. Later, two other big stags descended together into
the unseen depths on my front, but whither they subsequently took their
course--_quien sabe?_ I saw them no more.

The only other animal that crossed my line during the day was a
mongoose, but objects of interest never lacked. Close behind my post, a
huge stick-built nest filled a small ilex. This was the ancestral abode
of a pair of griffons, and its owners were already busy renewing their
home, though my presence sadly disconcerted them. Hereabouts these
vultures breed regularly _on trees_, a most unusual habit, due
presumably to the lack of suitable crags which elsewhere form their
invariable nesting-site. Cushats and robins lent an air of familiarity
to the scene, while azure-winged magpies--a species peculiarly
Spanish--hopped and chattered hard by, curiosity overcoming fear. There
were also pretty Sardinian warblers, with long tails and a white nuchal
spot like a coal-tit. Other birds seen in this sierra include merlin and
kestrel, green woodpecker, jay, blackbird, thrush, redwing, woodlark,
and chaffinch; and on off-days we shot a few red-legged partridges.

The two packs employed to-day numbered forty--twenty-four big and
sixteen small _podencos_, all yellow and white, the larger having a
cross of mastiff. That evening two of the best in the pack were
missing--"Capitan," killed by a boar in the _mancha_; the other returned
during the night, fearfully wounded, one foreleg almost severed.


The head-keeper told us that these _podencos_ fear the he-wolf. They
will run keenly on his scent, but never dare to close with him as they
do with boar. Yet curiously they have been known to fraternise with the
she-wolf, and in no case will they attack, but rather incline to caress

It was estimated by the drivers that eighty head of big-game (_reses_)
were viewed to-day. Thirty-two shots were fired, but only my one stag
was killed. Had the wind held steady, much better results were
probable.[29] Included among the guests at Mezquitillas--and they
represented rank and learning, arms, State, and Church--was a genial and
imposing personality in the poet laureate of Spain, Sr. D. Antonio
Cavestany, who celebrated this delightful if somewhat unlucky day in a
series of graceful couplets. We are wholly unequal to translate, but
copy two or three which readers who understand Spanish will

    Del Poeta al arma no dieron
    Las Musas mucha virtud:
    Cuatro ciervos le salieron ...
    Y los cuatro se le fueron
    Rebosantes de salud!

    Suya fue la culpa toda:
    Con la escopeta homicida
    Á apuntar no se acomoda ...
    Si les dispara una oda
    No escapa ni uno con vida!

    Sin duda no plugo á Dios
    Que del ganado cervuno
    Fueran las Parcas en pos
    Total; tiros, treinta y dos
    Yvenados muertos, uno!!!

    ¿Quien realizó tal hazaña?
    Verguenza de humillacion,
    Mi frente al decirlo baña.
    Fue el Ingles ... la rubia Albion
    Quedó esta vez sobre España!!

    Resumen: luz, embeleso,
    Panoramas, maravillas,
    Bosques, arroyos, cantuéso ...
    Lo dice junto todo eso
    Solo al decir "Mezquitillas."

    Y bondad, afecto, agrado,
    Gracia que ingenio revela,
    Hospitalidad, cuidado ...
    Todo eso esta compendiado
    Condecir "Juan y Carmela."

The next day's operations precisely reversed those of to-day, the guns
being placed along the depths of a valley, while the beaters brought
down the whole mountain-slopes above. Thus each post, though it
commanded a "pass," gave no such wonderful view beyond as had been the
feature of yesterday's _montería_. It will, in fact, be obvious that in
a big mountain-land no two beats are ever alike nor the conditions
equal. Every day presents fresh problems. That is one of the charms.

To-day, several stags and a pig were killed, besides one roe-deer and an
enormous wild-cat that scaled 7-3/4 kilos (over 17 lbs.).

[Illustration: GRIFFON VULTURE]

Towards noon, the sun-heat in the gorge being intense, I had cautiously
shifted my post to the banks of a mountain-burnlet that, embowered in
oleanders,[30] gurgled hard by. In those glancing streams, while I sat
motionless, a pair of water-shrews were also busied with their
lunch--dipping and diving, turning over pebbles, and searching each nook
and cranny of the crystal pool. Lovely little creatures they
were--velvety black with snow-white undersides, which showed
conspicuously on either flank; but the curious feature was the silver
sheen caused by infinite air-bubbles that still adhered to the fur while
they swam beneath the surface. They recalled a similar scene in an
elk-forest of distant Norway; but never in Spanish sierras have we
noticed water-shrews except on this occasion. While yet watching the
water-fairies, another movement caught the corner of one eye; with slow
sedate steps, a grey wild-cat was descending the opposite slope. She saw
nothing, yet the foresight of the ·303 carbine was recusant, it declined
to get down into the nick, and a miss resulted. But what a bound the
feline gave as an expanding bullet (at 2000 feet a second velocity)
shattered the sierra half an inch above her back!

[Illustration: ROARING SEPTEMBER.]

[Illustration: "HABET."]

An incident occurred near this point (though in another year) with a
stag. Two shots had been fired on the left, when the slightest sound
behind and above inspired a prepared glance in that direction--and only
just in time, for three seconds later a glorious pair of antlers showed
up on the nearest bush-clad height, and the easiest of shots yielded a
35-inch trophy.


The annexed drawing shows a 14-pointer, which was killed here the
following year by our host, Sr. Don Juan Calvo de León of Mezquitillas.
In mere inches the measurements may be surpassed by others, but no head
that we have seen excels this in extraordinary boldness of curve and
symmetry of form. This stag was shot on the Puntales del Peco, January
17, 1908, and in the same beat Sr. Juan Calvo, Junr., secured another
fine 14-pointer, as below:--

  |     |Points.|Length.|Widest Tips.|Widest Inside.|Circ. above Bez.|
  |No. 1|   14  |38-3/4"|   39-1/4"  |   33-1/4"    |     6-1/4"     |
  |No. 2|   14  |36-1/4"|     ...    |   25-3/4"    |       ...      |

Less rosy on that occasion was the writer's own luck. My post in Los
Puntales was in a narrow neck or "pass" in the knife-edged ridge of a
mountain-spur, the rock-strewn ground, overgrown with cistus
shoulder-high, falling sharply away both before and behind. In front I
looked into a chasm probably 1500 feet in depth, the hither slope being
invisible, so sharp was the drop; the opposite side, however (probably
2000 feet high), lay spread out as it were a perpendicular map. From
leagues away beyond its apex the beaters were now approaching. From
early in the day great fleecy cloud-masses had rolled by, and these
gradually grew denser till the whole sierra was enveloped in viewless
fog. Hark! some animal is escalading my fortress; one cannot see fifteen
yards--tantalizing indeed. Yet so well has the _puesto_ been chosen that
presently the intruder gallops almost over my toes--a yearling pig or
_lechon_, not worth a bullet.


(A 40-inch head.)]


Later, during a clearer interval, I descried a stag picking a slow and
deliberate course down the opposite escarpment. In the abyss below he
was long lost to sight but presently reappeared, coming fairly straight
in. Seldom have I felt greater confidence in the alignment than when I
then fired. Yet the result was a clean miss. While pressing trigger,
another shot rang out half-a-mile beyond and the stag swerved sharply;
still I had another barrel, and the second bullet "told" loudly enough
as the hart bounced, full-broadside, over the pass. Then he swerved to
take the rising ground beyond and, crossing the skyline, displayed the
grandest pair of antlers I have seen alive--the great yard-long horns
with their branching tops seemed too big even for that massive body.

On examination blood was found at once, and on both sides--that is, the
bullet had passed right through.

In the fog I had under-estimated the distance and the hit was low and
too far back. With two trackers I followed the spoor while daylight
served and through places that any words of mine must fail to describe;
but from the first the head-keeper had foretold the result: "Eso no se
cobra--va léjos"--"that stag you will not recover; he goes far, but
wherever he stops, he dies. See here! the dogs have run his spoor all
along, but have not yet brought him to bay."

The indications left by the stag on brushwood and rock conveyed to the
trackers' practised eyes, as clear as words, the precise position of the
wound; and, as foretold, those coveted antlers were lost, to perish

The pack of Mezquitillas was on this occasion reinforced by those of the
Duke of Medinaceli and of the Marquis of Viana--bringing the total up to
seventy hounds. Thus, in Spain, do the Grandees of a big land, when
guests at a _montería_, bring with them their huntsmen, kennelmen, and
their packs of hounds--a system that breathes a comforting sense of

Next day being hopelessly wet, I took opportunity of measuring three of
the trophies which adorn the hall at Mezquitillas:--

  |       |Points.| Length. |Widest Tips.|Circ. above | Circ. below |
  |       |       |         |            |    Bez.    |   Corona.   |
  |A      |   15  | 38-1/4" |   38-3/4"  |   6-1/2"   |     ...     |
  |B      |   14  | 38"     |   29-1/2"  |   6-1/4"   |    7-1/2"   |
  |C      |   14  | 37-3/4" |   33-1/2"  |    ...     |     ...     |
  |Roebuck|  ...  |  8-1/2" |    3-1/4"  |            |             |

It will be observed that the stag shot a day or two before, and
illustrated above (p. 167), tops the best of these by half an inch. The
somewhat abnormal curve, however, partly explains this.

[Illustration: JULY.]


We must record yet one more memorable day on this estate of
Mezquitillas. This _montería_ (in January 1910) covered the region known
as the Leoncillo. Upwards of twenty big stags passed the firing-line,
and every gun enjoyed his chance--several more than one. In the result,
six stags were killed--three by our host, one by his son. Though
carrying 12, 11, 10, and 10 points respectively, none of these four were
of exceptional merit, and the best, a 14-pointer, fell to the Duke of

The clean weight of these, the largest stags, is usually between 11-1/2
and 12 arrobas, or 287 to 300 lbs. English. One exceptionally heavy stag
killed by our host's son, Juan Calvo, Junr., and which had received some
injury in the _testes_, resulting in a malformation of the horn, weighed
no less than 16-1/2 arrobas, or 412 lbs. English.

Full-grown wild-boars at Mezquitillas average about 7 arrobas, or 175
lbs., clean--one specially big boar reached 8 arrobas, or 200 lbs.
Wolves, though abundant, are but rarely shot in _monterías_ for the
reasons already given. During the period covered by these notes only two
were killed in _monterías_--one by Sr. Calvo, Junr., the other by
Colonel Barrera. Wild-pigs breed as a rule in March, and to some extent
_gregatim_, or in little colonies, which is supposed to be as a
protection against the wolves; the lair _(cama)_ being a regular nest
made among thick scrub, and roofed over by the foliage. Lynxes, like
wolves, are rarely seen. This year, four (a female, with three
full-grown cubs) were held-up by the dogs, and all killed in one

Mongoose and genets are numerous on these brush-clad hills, and martens
_(Mustela foina)_ breed in the crags.

Stags roar from mid-September, chiefly by night. Their summer coat is
darker rather than redder than that of winter.

Farther east in Moréna, near Fuen-Caliente, already mentioned, very fine
heads are also obtained. The same systems prevail, and the following
measurements have been given us by the Marquéz del Mérito, taken from
two stags shot at Risquillo in his forests of the Sierra Quintána,
season 1906-7.

  |     | Length. |  Widest | Circ. at | Circ. above | Brow-Antler. |
  |     |         | Inside. |   Burr.  |     Bez.    |              |
  |No. 1| 36-3/4" |   35"   |  8-3/4"  |   5-1/2"    |      12"     |
  |No. 2| 40-1/4" |   ...   |  8-3/4"  |   6"        |      12"     |

No. 1 carried 7 + 7 = 14 points, and weighed 224 lbs. clean.

No. 2 carried 8 + 7 = 15 points, besides several knobs.

Both are shown in photos annexed.

In the extreme east of the Sierra Moréna another culminating point of
excellence appears to be attained--at Valdelagrana and Zamujar in the
neighbourhood of Jäen--at least it is from that region that two of the
largest examples came that we have yet seen in Spain. Both the
magnificent heads below described were carefully measured by

  |     |Points.|Length.| Widest| Widest |Circ. at|Circ. above|Circ. below|
  |     |       |       | Tips. | Inside.| Base.  |   Bez.    |  Corona.  |
  |No. 1|   16  |40-5/8"|40-1/2"| 31-1/2"| 7-1/2" |   5-5/8"  |   7-1/4"  |
  |No. 2|   16  |38-3/4"|33-1/2"| 28-1/2"|   ...  |   5-3/4"  |   7-1/8"  |

No. 1 was shot at Valdelagrana, Jäen, by Sr. D. Enrique Parladé, has
five on each top, all strong points, brow-antler 14-1/4 inches. Both
horns precisely equal, 40-5/8 inches.

No. 2 shot at El Zamujar, Jäen, by the Marquéz de Alvéntos, the whole
head massive and rugged, and all the sixteen points well developed.

The only Spanish stag within our knowledge which exceeds these
dimensions was shot at Ballasteros in the Montes de Toledo by Sr. D. I.
L. de Ybarra, the measurements of which, though not taken by ourselves,
we accept without reserve as follows:--Length, 41 inches; breadth,
36-1/2 inches; circumference below corona, 8-1/4 inches. (See photo.)

Since writing the foregoing, a head much exceeding the above records has
been obtained at Lugar Nuevo, near Andujar, in the eastern sierra, and
which measures no less than 43 inches. Photographs, with measurements
taken by Messrs. Rowland Ward (both of this and another good head
secured at Fontanarejo), have been sent us by the fortune-favoured
sportsman, Mr. J. M. Power of Linares, and will be found subjoined. For
convenience of reference we put the whole record in tabular form.



Points 15, plus knobs. Length 40-1/4 in.


A Twenty-four Pointer.


Points 16. Length 32-1/2 in.


Points 14. Length 41.]


  |                |       |               |Circum- |       |               |
  |                |Length |    Widest.    |ference |       |               |
  |                |outside+------+--------+  above |Points.|   Locality.   |
  |                |Curve. | Tips.| Inside.|  Bez.  |       |               |
  |                |  in.  |  in. |   in.  |   in.  |       |               |
  |J. M. Power     |43     |35    | 33-1/2 | 5-1/2  | 6 + 6 |Lugar Nuevo.   |
  |I. L. de Ybarra |41     |36-1/2| ...    | ...    | ...   |Ballasteros,   |
  |                |       |      |        |        |       |      Montes   |
  |                |       |      |        |        |       |de Toledo.     |
  |E. Parladé      |40-5/8 |40-1/2| 31-1/2 | 5-5/8  | 8 + 8 |Valdelagrana.  |
  |Marq. Mérito    |40-1/4 |...   | ...    | 6      | 7 + 7 |Risquillos.    |
  |Authors         |40     |36-1/2| 32     | 5-1/4  | 9 + 8 |(_Wild Spain_.)|
  |Marq. Alvéntos  |38-3/4 |33-1/2| 28-1/2 | 5-3/4  | 8 + 8 |Zamujar, Jäen. |
  |J. Calvo de León|38-3/4 |39-1/4| 33-1/4 | 6-1/4  | 7 + 7 |Mezquitillas.  |
  |    Do.         |38-1/4 |38-3/4| ...    | 6-1/2  | 8 + 7 |    Do.        |
  |    Do.         |38     |29-1/2| ...    | 6-1/4  | 7 + 7 |    Do.        |
  |    Do.         |38     |33-1/2| ...    | ...    | 7 + 7 |    Do.        |
  |Authors ...     |37-1/2 |34-1/2| 29-1/4 | 5      | 8 + 7 |(_Wild Spain_.)|
  |Marq. Mérito    |36-3/4 |...   | 35     | 5-1/2  | 8 + 7 |Risquillos.    |
  |J. Calvo, hijo  |36-1/4 |...   | 25-3/4 | ...    | 7 + 7 |Mezquitillas.  |
  |Authors         |35     |32-1/2| 28     | 5-3/4  | 6 + 6 |    Do.        |
  |    Do.         |34-1/8 | (cast antler) | 5-3/4  | 8 + 0 |Sa. Quintána.  |
  |J. M. Power     |32 1/2 |...   | ...    | 5-1/2  | 8 + 8 |Fontanarejo.   |



A country better adapted by nature for the success of the enterprising
bandit cannot be conceived. The vast _despoblados_ = uninhabited wastes,
with scant villages far isolated and lonely mountain-tracts where a
single desperado commands the way and can hold-up a score of passers-by,
all lend themselves admirably to this peculiar form of industry. And up
to quite recent years these natural advantages were exploited to the
full. Riding through the sierras, one notes rude crosses and epitaphs
inscribed on rocks recording the death of this or that wayfarer. Now
travellers, as a rule, do not die natural deaths by the wayside; and an
inspection of these silent memorials indicates that each occupies a site
eminently adapted for a quiet murder. Fortunately, during the last year
or two, the extension of the telegraph and linking-up of remote hamlets
has aided authority practically to extinguish brigandage on the grander
scale. Spain to-day can no longer claim a single artist of the Jack
Sheppard or Dick Turpin type; not one heroic murderer such as José Maria
(whose safe-conduct was more effective than that of his king), Vizco el
Borje, Agua-Dulce, and other _ladrones en grande_ whose life-histories
will be found outlined in _Wild Spain_.

The two first-named represent a type of manhood one cannot but
admire--admire despite oneself and despite its inconvenience to
civilisation. These were men ignorant of fear, who, though themselves
gentle, were yet able, by sheer force of iron will, to command and
control cut-throat gangs which set authority at defiance, and who
subjected whole districts to their anarchical aims and orders. The
outlaw-overlords ever acted on similar lines. Respecting human life as,
in itself, valueless, they commandeered real value by an adroit
combination of liberally subsidising the peasantry while yet terrorising
all by the certainty of swift and merciless retribution should the
least shade of treachery befall--or rather what to the brigand-crew
represented treachery. Human life was otherwise safe. Two points in this
connection demand mention. Besides direct robberies, the brigands
battened upon a tribute exacted from landowners and paid as a ransom to
shield themselves and their tenants from molestation. Secondly, their
safety and continued immunity from capture was largely due to that
secret influence--quite undefinable, yet potent to this day--known as
"Caciquismo." That influence was exerted on behalf of the outlaws as
part of the ransom arrangement aforesaid.

Neither for robber-chieftains of the first water, such as these, nor for
brigandage as a scientific business, is there any longer opportunity in
modern Spain, any more than for a Robin Hood at home. Lesser lights of
the road, footpads and casual _sequestradores_, will survive for a
further space in the wilder region; but the real romance of the industry
ceased with the new century.

[Illustration: PERNALES]

Its first decade has nevertheless produced a brace of first-rate
ruffians who, though in no sense to be compared with the old-time
aristocracy of the craft, at least succeeded in setting at naught the
civil power, and in pillaging and harassing rural Andalucia during more
than two years.

The original pair were known as Pernáles and El Vivillo, the latter a
man of superior instincts and education, who, under former conditions,
would doubtless have developed into the noble bandit. Vivillo on
principle avoided bloodshed; not a single assassination is laid to his
charge during a long career of crime. Pernales, on the contrary,
revelled in revolting cruelties, and rated human life no higher than
that of a rabbit. At first this repulsive ruffian, as hateful of aspect
as of character,[31] acted as a sort of lieutenant to Vivillo, but the
partnership was soon renounced by the latter consequent on a cowardly
crime perpetrated by Pernales in the Sierra of Algamita. At a lonely
farm lived an elderly couple, the husband an industrious, thrifty man,
who had the reputation of being rich among his fellows. Their worldly
possessions in actual fact consisted of some 2000 reales = £20. Pernales
was not likely to overlook a hoard so ill-protected, and one night in
November 1906 insisted, at the muzzle of his gun, on the savings being
handed over to him. A lad of fourteen, however, had witnessed the
transaction, and on perceiving him (and fearing he might thus be
denounced) Pernales plunged his knife in the boy's breast, killing him
on the spot. Vivillo, on hearing of this insensate murder by his second,
insisted on the restitution of their money to the aged pair, expelled
Pernales from his gang, and threatened him with death should he dare
again to cross his path.

Pernales now formed a fresh partnership with a desperado of similar
calibre to himself, a soulless brute, known as the Niño de Arahál, whose
acquaintance he had made at a village of that name. This pair, along
with a gang of ruffians who acclaimed them as chiefs, were destined to
achieve some of the worst deeds of violence in the whole annals of
Spanish _Bandolerismo_. For two years they held half Andalucia in awe,
terrorised by the ferocity of their methods and merciless disregard of
life. None dared denounce them or impart to authority a word of
information as to their whereabouts, even though it were known for
certain--such was the dread of vengeance.

Innumerable were the skirmishes between the forces of the law and its
outragers. An illustrative incident occurred in March 1907. A pair of
Civil Guards, riding up the Rio de los Almendros, district of Pruna,
suddenly and by mere chance found themselves face to face with the men
they "wanted." A challenge to halt and surrender was answered by instant
fire, and the outlaws, wheeling about, clapped spurs to their horses and
fled. Now for the Civil Guards as brave men and dutiful we have the
utmost respect; but their marksmanship on this occasion proved utterly
rotten, and an easy right-and-left was clean missed twice and thrice
over! The fugitives, moreover, outrode pursuit, and the fact illustrates
their cool, calculating nonchalance, that so soon as they reckoned on
having gained a forty-five minutes' advantage, the pair paid a quiet
social call on a well-to-do farmer of Morón, enjoyed a glass of wine
with their trembling host, and then (having some fifteen minutes in
hand) rode forward. Now comes a point. On arrival of the pursuers, that
farmer (though not a word had been said) denied all knowledge of his
new-gone guests. Pursuit was abandoned.

For eight days the bandits lay low. Then Pernales presented himself at a
farm in Ecija with a demand for £40, or in default the destruction of
the live-stock. The bailiff (no farmer lives on his farm) despatched a
messenger on his fleetest horse to bring in the ransom. As by the
stipulated hour he had not returned, Pernales shot eight valuable mules!
Riding thence to La Coronela, a farm belonging to Antonio Fuentes, the
bull-fighter, a similar message was despatched. Pending its reply our
outlaws feasted on the best; but instead of bank-notes, a force of Civil
Guards appeared on the scene. That made no difference. The terrified
farm-hands swore that the bandits had ridden off in a given direction,
and while the misled police hurried away on a wild-goose chase, our
heroes finished their feast, and late at night (having loaded up
everything portable of value) departed for their lair in the sierra.

During the next two months (May and June 1907) only minor outrages and
robberies were committed, but that quiescence was enlivened by two feats
that set out in relief the coolness and unflinching courage of these
desperados. In May they moved to the neighbourhood of Córdoba, and among
other raids pulled off a good haul in bank-notes, cash, and other
valuables at Lucena, an estate of D. Antonio Moscoso, following this up
by a report in their "Inspired Press" that the brigands had at last fled
north-wards with the view of embarking for abroad at Santander! A few
days later, however (May 31), they had the effrontery to appear in
Córdoba itself at the opening of the Fair, but, being early recognised,
promptly rode off into the impending Sierra Moréna. On their heels
followed the Civil Guard. Finding themselves overtaken, our friends
faced round and opened fire, but the result was a defeat of the bandit
gang. One, "El Niño de la Gloria," fell dead pierced by three bullets;
two other scoundrels--Reverte and Pepino--were captured wounded, while
in the mêlée the robbers abandoned four horses, a rifle, and a quantity
of jewelry--the product of recent raids. Pernales himself and the rest
of his crew escaped, and found shelter in the fastnesses of the Sierra
Moréna--thence returning to their favourite hunting-grounds nearer

Riding along the bye-ways of Marchena, disguised as rustic travellers,
on June 2 they demanded at a remote farm a night's food and lodging.
Half-concealed knives and revolvers proved strong arguments in favour of
obedience, and, despite suspicion and dislike, the bailiff acceded. This
time the Civil Guard were on the track. At midnight they silently
surrounded the house, communicated with the watchful bailiff, and
ordered all doors to be locked. The turning of a heavy key, however,
reached Pernales' ear. In a moment the miscreants were on the alert.
While one saddled-up the horses, the other unloosed a young farm mule,
boldly led him across the courtyard to the one open doorway, and,
administering some hearty lashes to the animal's ribs, set him off in
full gallop into the outer darkness. The police, seeing what they
concluded was an attempted escape, first opened fire, then started
helter-skelter in pursuit of a riderless mule! The robbers meanwhile
rode away at leisure.

Five days later, on June 7, both bandits attacked a _venta_, or country
inn, near Los Santos, in Villafranca de los Barrios, carrying off £200
in cash, six mules, with other valuables, and leaving the owner for
dead. This particular crime, for some reason or other, was more noised
abroad than dozens of others equally atrocious, and orders were now
issued jointly both by the _Ministro de Gobernacion_, the
Captain-General of the district, and the Colonels commanding the Civil
Guard throughout the whole of the harassed regions, that at all hazards
the murderous pair must be taken at once, dead or alive. This peremptory
mandate evolved unusual activities; the whole of the western sierra was
reported blockaded. Pernales, nevertheless, receiving warning through
innumerable spies of the police plans, succeeded in escaping from the
province of Seville into that of Córdoba, where the pair pursued their
career of crime, though now under conditions of increased hazard and
difficulty. Sometimes for days together they lay low or contented
themselves with petty felonies.

Then suddenly in a new district--that of Puente-Genil--burst out a fresh
series of the most audacious outrages. Big sums of money, with
alternative of instant death, were extorted from farmers and
landowners. These exploits, together with an odd murder or two, spread
consternation throughout the new area, and in all Puente-Genil, Pernales
and the Niño de Arahal became a standing nightmare. So soon as checked
here by the police, the robbers once more moved west, again "inspiring"
the press with reports of a foreign destination--this time viâ Cádiz. A
few days later, Málaga was named as their intended exit. Yet on July 16
they were to the north of Seville, and had another rifle-duel with the
Guards, again escaping scatheless at a gallop.

Persecution was now so keen that the wilds of the Sierra Moréna afforded
their only possible hope, and by holding the highest passes the outlaws
reached this refuge, being next reported at Venta de Cardeñas, 160 miles
north of Córdoba. A cordon of police was now drawn along the whole
fringe of the sierra from Vizco del Marquéz to Despeñaperros. The
position of the hunted couple became daily more precarious, their scope
of activity more restricted, and robberies reduced to insignificant
proportions. Nevertheless, on July 22, with consummate audacity and
dash, they raided the farm of Recena belonging to D. Tomas Herrera,
carrying off a sum of £160, with which they remained content till August
18, when they attacked the two farms of Vencesla and Los Villares, but,
being repulsed, fled northwards towards Ciudad Real. On September 1 they
entered the province of La Mancha, apparently seeking shelter in the
deep defiles of the Sierra de Alcaráz, for that morning a Manchegan
woodcutter was accosted by two mounted wayfarers who inquired the best
track to Alcaráz. The woodman innocently gave directions which, if
exactly followed, would much shorten the route. While thanking his
informant, Pernales--apparently out of sheer bravado--revealed his
identity, introducing himself to the astonished woodcutter as the Fury
who was keeping all authority on the jump and the country-side ablaze.
Straightway the man of the axe made for the nearest guard-station, and a
captain with six mounted police, reinforced by peasants, followed the
trail. As dusk fell the pursuers perceived two horses tethered in a
densely wooded dell, while hard by their owners sat eating and
drinking--the latter imprudence perhaps explaining why the brigands were
at last caught napping. To the challenge "Alto á la Guardia Civil!" came
the usual prompt response--the vibrant whistle of rifle-balls. Pernales
managed to empty the magazine of his repeater, killing one guard
outright and wounding two more. Though himself hit, he yet stood erect,
and was busy recharging his weapon when further shots brought him to
earth. On seeing his chief go down the Niño de Arahal sprang to the
saddle, but the opposing rifles were this time too many and too near.
The bandit, fatally wounded, was pitched to earth in death-throes, while
the poor beast stumbled and fell in its stride a few paces beyond. An
examination of the bodies showed that Pernales had been pierced by
twenty-two balls, his companion by ten.


Doubtless the thought may have occurred to readers that some
interpretation is necessary to explain how such events as these
(extending over a series of years) are still possible in Spain--in a
country fully equipped not only with elaborate legal codes bristling
with stringent penalties both for crime and its abettors, but also with
magistrates, judges, telegraphs, and an ample armed force, competent,
loyal, and keen to enforce those laws. Without assistants and
accomplices (call their aiders and abettors what you will) the Pernales
and Vivillos of to-day could not survive for a week. The explanation
lies in the existence of that inexplicable and apparently ineradicable
power called Caciquismo--fortunately, we believe, on the decline, but
still a force sufficient to paralyse the arm of the law and arrest the
exercise of justice. Ranging from the lowest rungs of society,
Caciquismo penetrates to the main-springs of political power. A secret
understanding with combined action amongst the affiliated, it secures
protection even to criminals with their hidden accomplices, provided
that each and all yield blind obedience to their ruling Cacique, social
and political. The Cacique stands above law; he is a law unto himself;
he does or leaves undone, pays or leaves unpaid as may suit his
convenience--conscience he has none. At his own sweet will he will
charge personal expenses--say his gamekeepers' wages or the cost of a
private roadway--to the neighbouring municipality. None dare object.
Caciquismo is no fault of the Spanish people; it is the disgrace of the
Caciques, who, as men of education, should be ashamed of mean and
underhand practices that recall, on a petty scale, those of the Tyrants
of Syracuse. Should any of these sleek-faces read our book, they may be
gratified to learn that no other civilised country produces parasites
such as they.

Not a foreign student of the problems of social life in Spain with its
conditions but has been brought to a full stop in the effort to diagnose
or describe the secret sinister influence of Caciquismo. Our Spanish
friends--detesting and despising the thing equally with ourselves--tell
us that no foreigner has yet realised either its nature or its scope.
Certainly we make no such pretension, nor attempt to describe the thing
itself--a thing scarce intelligible to Saxon lines of thought, a baneful
influence devised to retard the advance of modern ideas of freedom and
justice, to benumb all moral yearnings for truth and honesty in public
affairs and civil government. Caciquismo may roughly be defined as the
negation and antithesis of patriotism; it sets the personal influence of
one before the interest of all, sacrificing whole districts to the
caprice of some soul-warped tyrant with no eyes to see.

       *       *       *       *       *

A word in conclusion on Vivillo. Neither ignorance nor necessity
impelled Joaquin Camargo, nicknamed El Vivillo (the Lively One), to
embark, at the age of twenty-five, on a career of crime. Rather it was
that spirit of knight-errantry, of reckless adventure, that centuries
before had swept the Spanish Main, and that nowadays, in baser sort,
thrives and is fostered by a false romance--as Diego Corrientes, the
bandit, was reputed to be "run" by a duchess, as the "Seven Lads of
Ecija" terrorised under the ægis of exalted patronage, and José Maria,
the murderer of the Sierra Moréna, was extolled as a melodramatic hero
by novelists all over Spain. On such lines young Camargo thought to
gather fresh glories for himself. He early gained notoriety by a smart
exploit in holding-up the diligence from Las Cabezas for Villa Martin
just when the September Fair was proceeding at the latter place. The
passengers, mostly cattle-dealers, were relieved of bursting purses--no
cheques pass current at Villa Martin--to the tune of £8000. After that,
for several years, Vivillo ruled rural Andalucia, and his desperate
deeds supplied the papers with startling head-lines. When pursuit became
troublesome he embarked for Argentina, and soon his name was forgotten.
His retreat, however, was discovered, and Vivillo was brought back,
landing at Cádiz February 19, 1908. Since that date he has lived in
Seville prison--a man of high intelligence, of reputed wealth, and the
father of two pretty daughters. For reasons unexplained (and into which
we do not inquire) his trial never comes on. Vivillo keeps a stiff lip
and enjoys ... nearly all he wants.

[Illustration: A SUMMER EVENING--SPARROW-OWLS (_Athene noctua_) AND




Immediately to the north of our "Home-Province" of Andalucia, but
separated therefrom by the Sierra Moréna, stretch away the uplands of La
Mancha--the country of Don Quixote. The north-bound traveller, ascending
through the rock-gorges of Despeñaperros, thereat quits the mountains
and enters on the Manchegan plateau. A more dreary waste, ugly and
desolate, can scarce be imagined. Were testimony wanting to the
compelling genius of Cervantes, in very truth La Mancha itself would
yield it.


Yet it is wrong to describe La Mancha as barren. Rather its central
highlands present a monotony of endless uninteresting cultivation.
League-long furrows traverse the landscape, running in parallel lines to
utmost horizon, or weary the eye by radiating from the focal point as
spokes in a wheel. But never a break or a bush relieves one's sight,
never a hedge or a hill, not a pool, stream, or tree in a long day's
journey. Oh, it is distressing, wherever seen--in Old World or New--that
everlasting cultivation on the flat. True, it produces the necessary
fruits of the earth--here (to wit) corn and wine.

Farther north, where the Toledan mountains loom blue over the western
horizon, La Mancha refuses to produce anything.

The unsympathetic earth, for 100 miles a sterile hungry crust, stony and
sun-scorched, obtrudes an almost hideous nakedness, its dry bones
declining to be clad, save in flints or fragments of lava and splintered
granite. Wherever nature is a trifle less austere, a low growth of dwarf
broom and helianthemum at least serves to vary the dreariness of dry
prairie-grass. There, beneath the foothills of the wild Montes de
Toledo, stretch whole regions where thorn-scrub and broken belts of open
wood vividly recall the scenery of equatorial Africa--we might be
traversing the "Athi Plains" instead of European lands. Evergreen oak
and wild-olive replace mimosa and thorny acacia--one almost expects to
see the towering heads of giraffes projecting above the grey-green bush.
In both cases there is driven home that living sense of arid sterility,
the same sense of desolation--nay, here even more so--since there is
lacking that wondrous wild fauna of the other. No troops of graceful
gazelles bound aside before one's approach; no herds of zebra or
antelope adorn the farther veld; no galloping files of shaggy gnus spurn
the plain. A chance covey of redlegs, a hoopoe or two, the desert-loving
wheatears--birds whose presence ever attests sterility--a company of
azure-winged magpies chattering among the stunted ilex, or a
woodchat--that is all one may see in a long day's ride.

[Illustration: WOODCHAT SHRIKE AND ITS "SHAMBLES" (Sketched in La

Another feature common to both lands--and one abhorrent to northern
eye--is the absence of water, stagnant or current. Never the glint of
lake or lagoon, far less the joyous murmur of rippling burn, rejoice eye
or ear in La Mancha.

Alas, that to us is denied the synthetic sense! In vain we scan
Manchegan thicket for compensating beauties, for the Naiads and Dryads
with which Cervantes' creative spirit peopled the wilderness; no vision
of lovely Dorotheas laving ivory limbs of exquisite mould in sylvan
fountain rewards our searching (but too prosaic) gaze--that may perhaps
be explained by the contemporary absence of any such fountains. Nor have
other lost or love-lorn maidens, Lucindas or Altisidoras from enchanted
castle, aided us to add one element of romance to purely faunal studies.
Castles, it is true, adorn the heights or crown a distant skyline; nor
are Dulcineas of Toboso extinct or even in the _posada_ at Daimiel,
while excellent specimens graced the twilight _paséo_ of Ciudad Real or
reclined beneath the orange-groves of its _alameda_.


We have animadverted upon the absence of water in La Mancha. Yet there
is no rule but has its exception, and it is, in fact, to the existence
of a series of most singular Manchegan lagoons, abounding in bird-life,
that this venturesome literary excursion owes its genesis.

In the midst of tawny table-lands, well-nigh 200 miles from the sea and
upwards of 2000 feet above its level, nestle the sequestered Lagunas de
Daimiel extending to many miles of mere and marsh-land. These lakes are,
in fact, the birthplace of the great river Guadiana, the head-waters
being formed by the junction of its nascent streams with its lesser
tributary the Ciguela.

In the confluence of the two rivers mentioned it is the Guadiana that
chiefly lends its serpentine course to the formation of a vast series of
lagoons, with islands and islets, cane-brakes and shallows overgrown by
reeds, sedge, and marsh-plants, all traversed in every direction by open
channels (called _trochas_), the whole constituting a complication so
extensive that none save experienced boatmen can thread a way through
its labyrinths.

Isolated thus, a mere speck of water in the midst of the arid
table-lands of central Spain, yet these lagoons of Daimiel constitute
not only one of the chief wildfowl resorts of Spain, but possibly of all
Europe. Upon these waters there occur from time to time every species of
aquatic game that is known in this Peninsula, while in autumn the
duck-tribe in countless hosts congregate in nearly all their European
varieties. Those which are found in the greatest numbers include the
mallard, pintail, shoveler, wigeon, gargany, common and marbled teal,
ferruginous duck, tufted duck, pochard, and (in great abundance) the
red-crested pochard or _Pato colorado_. Coots also frequent the lagoons,
but in smaller numbers. There also appear at frequent intervals
flamingoes and black geese (_Ganzos negros_), whose species we have not
been able to identify, sand-grouse of both kinds, sea-gulls, duck-hawks,
grebes, and occasionally some wandering cormorants. Herons and egrets in
their different varieties haunt the shores and the shallows.

[Illustration: RED-CRESTED POCHARD (_Fuligula rufila_)]

Lest any far-venturing fowler be induced by this chapter to pack his
12-bore and seek the nearest Cook's office, it should at once be stated
that the rights-of-chase (as are all worth having, alike in Spain,
Scotland, or England) are in private hands--those of the Sociedad de las
Lagunas de Daimiel, a society which at present numbers five members, all
of ducal rank, and to one of whom we are indebted for excellent
descriptive notes. The lakes are guarded by keepers who have held their
posts for generations--the family of the Escudéros.

To claim for these far-inland lagoons a premier place among the great
wildfowl resorts of Europe may seem extravagant--albeit confirmed by
facts and figures that follow. But the lakes, be it remembered, are
surrounded by that cultivation afore described--100 mile stubbles and so
on. Another fact that well-nigh struck dumb the authors (long accustomed
to study and preach the incredible mobility of bird-life) was that ducks
shot at dawn at Daimiel are found to be cropful of _rice_. Now the
nearest rice-grounds are at Valencia, distant 180 miles; hence these
ducks, not as a migratory effort, but merely as incidental to each
night's food-supply, have sped at least 360 miles between dusk and dawn.

     As autumn approaches (we quote from notes kindly given us by the
     Duke of Arión), so soon as the keepers note the arrival of incoming
     migrants, their first business consists in observing the points
     which these select for their assemblage. Then with infinite
     patience, tact, and skill, the utmost advantage is seized of those
     earlier groups which have chosen haunts nearest to points where
     guns may be placed most effectively. These favoured groups are left
     rigorously alone to act as decoys, while by gentleness and least
     provocative methods, the keepers induce other bands which have
     settled in less appropriate positions to unite their forces with
     the elect. Thus within a few days vast multitudes, scattered over
     wide areas, have been unconsciously concentrated within that
     "sphere of influence" where four or five guns may act most

     The supreme test of the keepers' efficiency is demonstrated when
     this concentration is limited to some particular area designated
     for a single day's shooting.

     The night preceding the day fixed for shooting, so soon as the
     ducks have already quitted the lagoons and spread themselves afar
     over the surrounding cornlands on their accustomed nocturnal
     excursions in search of food, the posts of the various gunners are
     prepared. This work involves cutting a channel through some
     islanded patch of reeds situate in the centre of open water. The
     channel is merely wide enough to admit the entrance of the punt
     from which the gunner shoots, the cut reeds being left to remask
     the opening so soon as the punt has entered.

     Somewhere between three and four o'clock in the morning the
     sportsmen sally forth from the shooting-lodge (situate on the Isla
     de los Asnos), each in his punt directing a course to the position
     he has drawn by lot. In the boat, besides guns, cartridges, and
     loader (should one be taken), are carried thirty or forty
     decoy-ducks fashioned of wood or cork and painted to resemble in
     form and colour the various species of duck expected at that
     particular season.

     Each of these decoys is furnished with a string and leaden weight
     to act as an anchor. A fixed plummet directly beneath the floating
     decoy prevents its being blown over or upset.

     Generally speaking, the sportsman awaits the dawn in the same boat
     in which he has reached his position, but should shallow water
     prevent this, either a lighter punt, capable of being carried by
     hand, or some wooden boards are substituted as a seat. Having set
     out his decoys, and arranged his ammunition, each gunner awaits in
     glorious expectancy the moment when the first light of dawn shall
     set the aquatic world amove.

     Singly they may come, or in bands and battalions--soon the whole
     arc of heaven is serried with moving masses. Should the day prove
     favourable, firing continues practically incessant till towards ten
     o'clock. From that hour onwards it slackens perceptibly, ducks
     flying fewer and fewer and at increasing intervals up to noon or
     thereby, when spoils are collected and the day's sport is over.

     There are at most but four or five _puestos_, or gun-posts, at
     Daimiel, and that only when ducks are in their fullest numbers.

     Under such conditions, and when all incidental conditions are
     favourable, a bag of over 1000 ducks in the day has not
     infrequently been registered. On such occasions it follows that
     individual guns must gather from 200 to 300 ducks apiece.

     Almost incredible as are the results occasionally obtained under
     favouring conditions, yet the duck-shooting at Daimiel is
     nevertheless subject to considerable variation in accordance with
     the sequence of the season. The biggest totals are usually recorded
     during the months of September, October, and November in dry years.
     The bags secured at such periods are apt to run into extraordinary
     numbers, but with this proviso, that quality is then sometimes
     inferior to quantity. For the chief item at these earlier shoots
     consists of teal, with only a sprinkling of mallard, wigeon, and
     shoveler, and, in some years, a few coots. But at the later
     _tiradas_ (shootings), although game is usually rather less
     abundant, it is then entirely composed of the bigger ducks--beyond
     all in numbers being the mallard, pintail, wigeon, and red-crested
     pochard, while an almost equal number of shovelers and common
     pochards are also bagged.

     At these earlier _tiradas_ a good gun should be able, with ease, to
     bring down, say, 400 ducks, although this number dwindles sadly in
     the pick-up, since but few of those birds will be recovered that
     fall outside the narrow space of open water around each "hide." One
     may say roughly that at least one-fourth are lost. For, although
     each post be surrounded by open water, yet many ducks must fall
     within the encircling canes, while even those that fall in the
     open, if winged and beyond the reach of a second barrel, will
     inevitably gain the shelter of the covert, and all these are
     irrecoverable. Others, again, carrying on a few yards, may fall
     dead in open water, but at a distance the precise position of which
     is difficult to fix by reason of intervening cane-brakes. Thus
     between those that are lost in the above ways and others that may
     be carried away by the wind or the current (besides many that are
     devoured by hawks and eagles under the fowler's eye but beyond the
     range of his piece) it is no exaggerated estimate that barely
     three-fourths of the fallen are ever recovered.

To the above description another Spanish friend, Don Isidoro Urzáiz,
adds the following:--

     In the year 1892 I fired at ducks in a single morning at Daimiel
     one thousand and ten cartridges. This was between 6.30 and 10.30
     A.M. I gathered rather over two hundred, losing upwards of a
     hundred more. I shot badly; it being my first experience with duck,
     I had not learnt to let them come well in, and often fired too

     In subsequent _tiradas_ I have never enjoyed quite so much luck,
     although never firing less than 400 to 500 cartridges. In spite of
     the difficulty of recovering dead game, I have always on these
     occasions gathered from one hundred upwards--the precise numbers I
     have not recorded. Some of the _puestos_ have a very small extent
     of open water around them, and in these a greater proportion of the
     game is necessarily lost. For example, in a single quite small
     clump of reeds I remember marking not less than thirty ducks fall
     dead, yet of these I recovered not one. The sharp-edged leaves of
     the sedge (_masiega_) cut like a knife, and the boatman who entered
     the reeds to collect the game returned a few minutes later without
     a bird, but with hands, arms, and legs bleeding from innumerable
     cuts and scratches, which obliged him to desist from further
     search. This is but one example of the difficulty of recovering
     fallen game.

As examples of the totals secured individually in a day may be quoted
the following. At the first shooting in 1908 the Duke of Arión gathered
251 ducks, and at the second shoot, 245, the Duke of Prim, 197. The
record bag was made some ten or twelve years ago by a Valencian
sportsman, Don Juan Cistel, who brought in no less than 393 ducks in
one day! His late Majesty, King Alfonso XII., comes second with 381
ducks shot in three hours and a half. On his second visit, on hearing
that he had secured his century, His Majesty stopped shooting, being
more interested to watch the fowl passing overhead. His total was 127.
King Alfonso XIII. had an unlucky day here--rain and storm--hence he
only totalled ninety odd. Many years ago, our late friend, Santiago
Udaëta, was credited with 270 ducks to his own gun in one day.

These bags are truly enormous, for, big as it is, Daimiel is not a patch
in size as compared with our own marismas of the Guadalquivir. There is
here, on the other hand, abundant cover to conceal the guns, which is
not the case with us.


It was at Daimiel that we first made acquaintance with the red-crested
pochard--a handsome and truly striking species, smart in build, colour,
action, and every attribute. A bushy red head outstretched on a very
long neck contrasts with the jet-black breast, while the white
"speculum" on the wings shows up conspicuous as a transparency,
especially when a band passes over-head in the azure vault, or splashes
down on reed-girt shallow--one actually seems to see through the gauzy
texture of their quills. These ducks breed in numbers at Daimiel, as do
also mallards, garganey, and ferruginous ducks, together with stilts,
grebes, and herons of all denominations. Greatly do we regret that our
experience at Daimiel does not include the spring-season with all its
unknown ornithological possibilities. An unfortunate accident prevented
our spending a week or two at Daimiel in May of the present year.

Ospreys visit the lakes in autumn, preying on the abundant carp and
tench; and wild-boars, some of great size, coming from the bush-clad
Sierra de Villarubia on the south, frequent the cane-brakes. Shelducks
of either species appear unknown; but grey geese (as well as flamingoes)
make passing calls at intervals, a small dark-coloured goose (possibly
the bernicle) is recorded to have been shot on two or three occasions,
and wild swans once.

The little country-town of Daimiel, situate six or eight miles from the
lakes, was recently the scene of an extraordinary tragedy. We copy the
account from the Madrid newspaper, _El Liberal_, February 20, 1908:--

     Telegraphing from Daimiel, it is announced that yesterday a gang of
     masked men forced their entrance into the Council-Chamber while the
     Council were holding a meeting under the presidency of the Mayor.

     The masked men, who numbered six or eight, came fully armed with
     guns and rifles which they discharged in the very face of the
     Mayor, who fell dead, riddled with bullets.

     The assembled Councillors, seized with panic, fled.

     The murdered Mayor was a Conservative, and the only member of that
     party who held a seat in the Corporation. It is believed that the
     assassination was perpetrated in obedience to political motives.




Perhaps no other contemporary spectacle has been oftener and more
minutely described by writers who--censors and enthusiasts
alike--possess neither personal nor technical qualification, for the
work. Impressions, once the Pyrenees are passed, grow spontaneously
deeper and stronger in inverse ratio with experiences. And the majority
of descriptions confessedly prejudge the scene in adverse sense--the
writer (sometimes a lady) going into wild hysterics after half-seeing a
single bull killed.

We have not the slightest intention of entering that arena of ravelled
preconceptions and misconceptions, nor are we concerned either to uphold
or to condemn. A greater mind has satirised the human tendency to
"condone the sins we are inclined to, by damning those we have no mind
to," and we are content to leave it at that.

In this chapter we purpose to glance at the subject from three points of

(1) The origin of bull-fighting, 500 years ago, and its subsequent

(2) The modern system of breeding and training the fighting bull.

(3) The "Miura question"--an incident of to-day.

As a Spanish institution, bull-fighting dates back to the Reconquest or
shortly thereafter. When that abounding vigour and virility that had
animated and sustained Spanish explorers and warriors--the sailors and
adventurers who, following in the wake of the caravels of Columbus,
opened up a new world to Spain and carried the purple banner of Castile
to the ends of the earth--when that vigour had spent its fiery force and
grown anæmic, there still remained (as always) a residue of bold
spirits who, scorning decadent circumstance, turned intuitively to that
virile and dangerous exercise left them as a heritage by the vanished

For it was the Arab conquerors, the so-called Moors, who first practised
this form of vicarious warfare. It was, however, in no sense as a
sport--far less as a popular pastime--that the fierce Arab had risked
equal chances with the fiercest wild beast of the Spanish plain. No, it
was strictly as a substitute and a preparation for the sterner realities
of war that, during the intervals of peace, the Moors "kept their hands
in" by fighting bulls.

The object was to keep themselves and their chargers fit, their eyesight
true, and muscles toughened for the further struggles that all knew must
follow. But during those intervals of peace, the rival knights,
Christian and Moslem, met in keen competition with lance and sword on
the enclosed arena of the bull-ring. The conclusion of a truce was
frequently celebrated by holding a joint _fiesta de toros_.

No trace, however, exists in Arab writings to show that these people
possessed any innate love of bull-fighting as a sport, or ever practised
it save only as an accessory to the art of war.

No other people of ancient race have had exhibitions of this kind--that
is, where the skill of man was invoked to incite a beast to attack in
certain desired modes; while the performer escaped the onset, and
finally slew his adversary, by preconceived forms of defence governed by
set rules--a spectacle wherein the assembled crowd could, each according
to his light, estimate both the skill of the man and the fighting
quality of the beast. That the blood of many a gladiator dyed the Roman
arena at the horns of bulls is certain: but no artistic embellishments
of attack or defence added to the joy of the Roman holiday. The mere
mechanical instinct of self-preservation may inadvertently have
suggested to individual combatants certain combinations in the conflict
that in later days have been utilised by modern matadors; but it seems
hardly possible to suppose that Roman gladiators saved themselves by
methods of prescribed art. Contemporary records, together with the
scenes depicted on coinage, represent rather a mere massacre of men by
brute force; and such cannot bear any relation to the conditions that
govern the national _fiesta_ of Spain to-day.

The actual origin in Spain of the _Corrida de Toros_ must thus be traced
to the Spanish Arabs, who, to exercise themselves and their steeds
during intermittent periods of peace, adopted this dangerous pastime
with the view of fortifying and invigorating personal valour, so
necessary in times of constant strife.

The Arab's spear and charger were opposed to the wild bull of the
Spanish plain under conditions many of which are analogous to these in
vogue to-day.

In those earlier ages it was permitted to an unhorsed cavalier to accept
protection from the horns of his enemy at the hands of his personal
retainers, who not infrequently sacrificed their own lives in devotion
to their chief.

At this period (during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) the
knight who, lance in hand, had been hurled from the saddle might draw
his sword and kill the bull, his vassals being allowed to assist in
placing the animal (by deft display of coloured cloaks) in a position to
facilitate the death-stroke. Here, doubtless, originated the art of
"playing" the bull, and incidentally sprang the professional

For as these servants became experts, and by reason of their prowess
gained extra wages, so proportionately such skill became of pecuniary
value. Mercenaries of this sort were, nevertheless, despised--to risk
their lives in return for money was regarded as an infamous thing. But
at least they had inaugurated the regime of the highly paid matador of

During the first century after the Reconquest bull-fighting was opposed
by several powerful influences, but each in turn it survived and set at
naught. Isabel la Católica, horrified by the sight of bloodshed at a
bull-fight which she personally attended, decided to prohibit all
_corridas_; but that, she found, lay beyond even her great influence.
Next, in 1567, the power of the Papacy was invoked in vain.

Pope Pius V., by a _bula_ of November 20, forbade the spectacle under
pain of excommunication, the denial of Christian burial, and similar
ecclesiastical penalties; but he and his _bula_ had likewise to go under
in face of the national sentiment of Spain.

A noble bull fell to the lance of Isabel's grandson, H.M. the Emperor
Charles V., in the Plaza Mayor of Valladolid amidst acclamation of
countless admirers. This occurred during the festivals held to
celebrate the birth of his eldest son, afterwards Phillip II.

[Illustration: BULL-FIGHTING. From a Drawing by Joseph Crawhall]

In 1612 bull-fighting first assumed a financial aspect. Phillip III.
conceded to one Arcania Manduno the emoluments accruing during the term
of three lives from the _corridas de toros_ in the city of Valencia.
Charities and asylums benefited under this fund, but the bulk went in
payment for professional services in the Plaza.

During the reign of Phillip IV.--that king being skilled in the use of
lance and javelin (_rejón_), and frequently himself taking a public
part--the _fiesta_ advanced enormously in national estimation. English
readers may recall the sumptuous _corrida_ which marked the arrival of
Charles I., with the Duke of Buckingham, at Madrid.

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.

Phillip V., however, would have none of the spectacle, and then the
nobility held aloof from the _corridas_; but their example proved no
deterrent. For the hold of the national pastime on the Moro-hispanic
race was too firm-set to be swept aside by alien influence, however
strong; and when thus abandoned by the patricians, the hidalgos and
grandees of Spain, the sport of bull-fighting (hitherto confined
exclusively to the aristocracy) was taken up by the Spanish people. A
further impulse was generated later on under Ferdinand VII., who
obtained a reversal of the anathema of the Church on condition that some
of the pecuniary profits of the _corridas_ should swell the funds of the

It was, however, during the first half of the eighteenth century that
bull-fighting on a popular basis, as understood and practised at the
present day, took its start. Then there stepped upon the enclosed arena
the first professional _Toréro_ amidst thrilling plaudits from tier
above tier of encircling humanity. Never before had the bull been taken
on by a single man on foot armed only with his good sword and scarlet
flag--with these to pit his strength and skill against the weight and
ferocity of a _toro bravo_--alone and unaided to despatch him. Such a
man was Francisco Romero, erewhiles a shoemaker at Ronda--A.D.
1726--first professional _lidiador_. On his death at an advanced age, he
left five sons, all craftsmen of repute, who, in honour of their sire,
formed a bull-fighting guild still known as the Rondénean
School--distinguished from the later Sevillian cult by its more serious
and dignified attack as compared with the prettiness and "swagger" of
the Sevillano.

In that generation Francisco's son, Pedro Romero, appeared in rivalry
with PEPE-ILLO, the new-risen star in the Sevillian firmament. It was,
by the way, the master-mind of the latter which completed and perfected
the reorganisation on popular lines of the national _fiesta_ after
Bourbon influence had alienated the aristocracy from their ancient
diversion. The rivalry between these competing exponents of the two
styles commenced in 1771, the pair representing each a supreme mastery
of their respective schools, and only terminated with the death of
Pepe-Illo in the Plaza of Madrid, May 11, 1801. The Sevillian style has
since attained pre-eminence, appealing more to the masses by its
nonchalance and apparent disregard of danger. When the best features of
both schools are combined--as has been exemplified in more than one
brilliant exponent of the art--then the letters of his name are writ
large on the _cartels_.

One other famous name of that epoch demands notice--that of Costillares,
who introduced the flying stroke distinguished as the _suerte de
volapié_. Hitherto all _lidiadors_ had received the onset of the bull
standing--the _suerte de recibir_. In the _volapié_ the charging bull is
met half-way, an exploit demanding unswerving accuracy, strength of arm,
and exact judgment of distance, since the spot permissible for the sword
to enter, the target on the bull's neck, is no bigger than an orange.

The normal difficulty of sheathing the blade at that exact point on a
charging bull is great enough; but is vastly increased in the _volapié_,
or flying stroke, and the effect produced on the spectators emotional in
the last degree.

Costillares also formalised the costumes of the different classes of
bull-fighters. He flourished in 1760, and died of a broken heart owing
to his right arm being injured, which incapacitated him from further
triumphs. About that period Martinho introduced the perilous pole-jump,
and José Candido stood out prominent for skill and extraordinary

Intermediate episodes of minor importance we must briefly note. Thus
Godoy in 1805 stopped bull-fights, but Joseph Bonaparte in 1808
re-established the spectacle, in vain hope--a sop to Cerberus--of
attaching sympathy to his dynasty.

On the return of Fernando VII. in 1814, he also prohibited the shows,
only to re-authorise them the following year, while in 1830 he founded a
school of Toromaquia in Seville. One famous _toréro_, matriculating
thereat, inaugurated a new epoch. Francisco Montes carried popular
enthusiasm to its highest apex. Joy bordering on madness possessed the
Madrilenean ring when Montes handled the _muleta_. Yet as a matador he
had serious defects.

In 1840 Cuchares appeared on the scene, and two years later the great
disciple of Montes, José Redondo. The rivalry of these notable
contemporaries lifted the _toréo_ once more to a level of absorbing
national interest. It will have been seen that whenever two brilliant
constellations flash forth simultaneously, their very rivalry commands
the sympathy and supreme interest of the Spanish people.

From 1852 El Tato stood out as a type of elegance and valour, the idol
of the masses, till on June 7, 1859, a treacherous bull left him
mutilated in the arena. Antonio Carmóna (El Gordito), commenced his
career in 1857, alternating in the ring with El Tato and later with
Lagartijo, the latter a brilliant _toréro_ (or player of bulls) as
distinguished from a matador. Consummate in every feint and artifice,
Lagartijo could befool the animals to the top of his bent, yet as a
matador, the final and supreme executor, he failed.

For twenty years (1867-87) the Spanish public were divided in their keen
appreciation of contemporaneous masters, Lagartijo and Frascuelo. The
latter, whose iron will and courage made amends for certain personal
defects in the lighter role, had marvellous security in the final

Lagartijo and Frascuelo accentuate an era well remembered by enthusiasts
in the Classic School of the _Toréo_. In their day all Spaniards were
devoted, aye, passionate adherents of one or the other: all Spain was
divided into two camps, that of Lagartijo and that of Frascuelo. The
actual supporters of the ring were probably no more numerous then than
to-day; but toreadors breathed that old-fashioned atmosphere in which a
love of the profession was supreme--an heroic unselfishness, personal
skill, and valour were the ruling motives. Pecuniary interest was a
thing apart.

The career of the bull-fighter to-day is absolutely wanting in such
virtue. Lagartijo and Frascuelo staked their lives each afternoon,
through a love of their art, by the impress of honest nature, perhaps by
inspiration of a woman's eyes. Into their calculations, ideas of lucre
did not enter, money had no value.

Then came on the scene (1887) that bright particular star, Rafael Guerra
(Guerrita) celebrated and admired--and with justice. But his coming
destroyed for ever the legend of the disinterested _toréro_. The lover
of the art for its own sake was no more, Guerrita was a mercenary of the
first water. Admittedly first of modern bull-fighters, the aspiration of
his soul was the possession of bank-notes, to be the clipper of many
coupons! Neither passion, nor blood, nor favour of the fair inspired his
sordid soul. At the supreme moment of danger, money, only money, was the
motive which actuated him. In his desire for wealth, he succeeded. His
unexpected retirement from the arena in the very apogee of his glory,
and carrying away the accumulation of his thrift, was a shock to this
warm-hearted people. Every vestige of the romantic halo with which
personal prowess and graceful presence had surrounded him was destroyed.
Guerrita as a player of bulls (_toréro_) was the first in all the
history of the ring. As a "matador" also he was the most complete and
certain. Unlike the majority of his compeers, he was reserved in his
habits, and lived apart from the bizarre and tempestuous life of the
ordinary bull-fighter, with its feminine intrigues and excitements. For
that reason he had many enemies amongst his set; but of his claim to be
in the very first rank there has never been a question. To see Guerrita
wind the silken sash around his ribs of steel, as he attired himself for
the arena, was a sight his patrons considered worth going many a mile to

Since his retirement, the show has fallen greatly, in the quality of the

Luis Mazzantini created a temporary revolution in the annals of
toromaquia (1885), lighting up anew the enthusiasm for the _fiesta_. He
came not of the usual low, half-gipsy caste, but of the class which
entitled him to the _Don_ of gentle birth. Don Luis Mazzantini, the only
professional bearing such a prefix, acquired at an unusually late period
of life sufficient technical knowledge of bull-fighting to embolden him
to enter the lists in competition with professionals. He was thirty
years of age when the heavy pay of the matador induced him to risk his
life in the arena.



Whatever may be said of his failing as an artistic exponent of the art
of Cucháres, he killed his bulls in a resolute manner, and re-animated
the interest in the _corrida_, but his example was a bad one. Several
men emulating his career have endeavoured to become improvised
_toréros_, and, like him, to avoid the step-by-step climb to matador's
rank. All have been failures. They wanted to begin where the
bull-fighter of old left off.

Mazzantini has retired, unscathed, from his twenty years of perilous
experience in the arena, and is now a civic light in the local
government of the city of Madrid.

Since Guerrita, not a single matador of leading light has arisen.
Reverte (1891), Antonio Fuentes (1893), and Bombita (1894) all attracted
a numerous public; and after them we arrive at the lesser lights of the
present day, Bombita II. and Machaquito.

Notwithstanding its present decadence in all the most essential
qualities, yet the _fiesta de toros_ is still, if not the very
heartthrob of the nation, at least the single all-embracing symbol of
the people's taste as distinguished from that of other lands. Racing has
been tried and failed; there are no teeming crowds at football, nor
silent watchers on the cricket-field. _La Corrida_ alone makes the
Spanish holiday.




The normal British idea of a bull naturally derives colour from those
stolid animals one sees at home, some with a ring through the nose, and
which are only kept for stud purposes, but occasionally evince a latent
ferocity by goring to death some hapless herdsman.

Between such and the Spanish _Toro de Plaza_ there exists no sort of
analogy. The Spanish fighting-bull is bred to fight, and the keen
experience of centuries is brought to bear on the selection of the
fittest--that, moreover, not only as regards the bulls, for the cows
also are tested both for pluck and stamina before admission to the
herd-register. The result, in effect, assures that an animal as fierce
and formidable as the wildest African buffalo shall finally face the

The breeding of the fighting-bull forms in Spain a rural industry as
deeply studied and as keenly competitive as that of prize-cattle or
Derby winners in England.

At the age of one year preliminary tests are made, and promising
youngsters branded with the insignia of the herd. But it is the
completion of the second year that marks their critical period; for then
take place the trials for pluck and mettle. The brave are set aside for
the Plaza, the docile destroyed or gelded; while from the chosen lot a
further selection is made of the sires for future years.

At these two-year-old trials, or _Tentaderos_, it is customary for the
owner and his friends to assemble at the sequestered _rancho_--the event
indeed becomes a rural fête, a bright and picturesque scene, typical of
untrodden Spain and of the buoyant exuberance and dare-devil spirit of
her people.

Nowhere can the exciting scenes of the _Tentadero_ be witnessed to
greater advantage than on those wide level pasturages that extend from
Seville to the Bay of Cádiz. Here, far out on spreading _vega_ ablaze
with wild flowers, where the canicular sun flashes yet more light and
fire into the fiery veins of the Andaluz--here is enacted the first
scene in the drama of the _Toréo_. For ages these flower-strewn plains
have formed the scene of countless _tentaderos_, where the young bloods
of Andalucia, generation after generation, rival each other in feats of
derring-do, of skill, and horsemanship.

The remote _estancia_ presents a scene of unwonted revelry. All night
long its rude walls resound with boisterous hilarity--good-humour,
gaiety, and a spice of practical joking pass away the dark hours and by
daylight all are in the saddle. The young bulls have previously been
herded upon that part of the estate which affords the best level ground
for smart manoeuvre and fast riding, and the task of holding the
impetuous beasts together is allotted to skilled herdsmen armed with
long _garrochas_--four-yard lances, with blunt steel tip. All being
ready, a single bull is allowed to escape across the plain. Two horsemen
awaiting the moment, spear in hand, give chase, one on either flank. The
rider on the bull's left assists his companion by holding the animal to
a straight course. Presently the right-hand man, rising erect in his
stirrups, plants his lance on the bull's _off-flank_, near the tail, and
by one tremendous thrust, delivered at full speed, overthrows him--a
feat that bespeaks a good eye, a firm seat, and a strong arm. Some young
bulls will take two or more falls; others, on rising, will elect to
charge. The infuriated youngster finds himself faced by a second foe--a
horseman armed with a more pointed lance and who has been riding close
behind. This man is termed _el Tentador_. Straightway the bull charges,
receiving on his withers the _garrocha_ point; thrown back thus 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 essay a third or a fourth
attack, but those that freely charge _twice_ are passed as fit for the

Should a young bull _twice_ decline to charge the _Tentador_, submitting
to his overthrow and only desiring to escape, he is condemned--doomed to
death, or at best to a life of agricultural toil.

Not seldom a bull singled out from the _rodéo_ declines to escape, as
expected; but, instead, charges the nearest person, on foot or mounted,
whom he may chance to espy. Then there is a flutter in the dovecotes!
Danger can only be averted by skilled riding or a cool head, since there
is no shelter. Spanish herdsmen, however (and amateurs besides), are
adepts in the art of giving "passes" to the bull--a smart fellow, when
caught thus in the open, can keep a bull off him (using his jacket only)
for several moments, giving time for horsemen to come up to his rescue.
Even then it is no uncommon occurrence to see horseman, horse, and bull
all rolling on the turf in a common ruin. Seldom does it happen that one
of these trial-days passes without broken bones or accidents of one kind
or another.

For four to five more years, the selected bulls roam at large over the
richest pasturages of the wide unfrequented prairies. Should pasture
fail through drought or deluge, the bulls are fed on tares, vetch, or
maize, even with wheat, for their début in public must be made in the
highest possible condition. The bulls should then be not less than five,
nor more than seven years old.

The _tentadero_ at the present day brings together aristocratic
gatherings that recall the tauromachian tournaments of old. Skill in
handling the _garrocha_ and the ability to turn-over a running bull are
accomplishments held in high esteem among Spanish youth. Even the
Infantas of Spain have entered into the spirit of the sport, and have
been known themselves to wield a dexterous lance.

At length, however, the years spent in luxurious idleness on the silent
plain must come to an end. One summer morning the brave herd find
grazing in their midst sundry strangers which make themselves extremely
agreeable to the lordly champions, now in the zenith of magnificent
strength and beauty. These strangers are the _cabrestos_ (or
_cabestros_, in correct Castilian), decoy-oxen sent out to fraternise
for a few days with the fighting race preparatory to the _Encierro_, or
operation of convoying the latter to the city whereat the _corrida_ is
to take place. Each _cabresto_ has a cattle-bell suspended round its
neck in order to accustom the wild herd to follow the lead of these base
betrayers of the brave. Thus the noble bulls are lured from their native
plains through country tracks and bye-ways to the entrance of the fatal

[Illustration: AFTER THE STROKE.]

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_, line 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

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
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 gleaning horns have done their work, and _Buen toro! buen toro!_
rings from twice ten thousand throats.

We have traced in brief outline the life-history of our gallant bull; we
have brought him face to face with the matador and his Toledan
blade--there we must leave him.[33] In concluding this chapter, may we
beg the generous reader, should he ever enter the historic precincts of
the Plaza, to go there with an open mind, to form his own opinion
without prejudice or bias. Let him remember that to untrained eyes there
must ever fall unseen many of the finer "passes," much of the skilled
technique and science of tauromachian art. The casual spectator
necessarily loses that; he perceives no more difficulty in the perilous
_suerte de vol-á-pié_ than in the simpler but more attractive _suerte de
recibir_, and a hundred similar details. Finally, before crystallising a
judgment, critics should endeavour to see a few second-or third-rate
_corridas_. It is at these that the relative values of the forces
opposed--brute strength and human skill--are displayed in truer and more
speaking contrast. At set bull-fights of the first-class, the latter
quality is often so marked as partly to obscure the difficulties and
dangers it surmounts. Watch _toréros_ of finished skill and the game
seems easy--as when some phenomenal batsman, well set, knocks the best
bowling in England all over the field. Yet that bowling, the expert
knows, is not easy. Nor are the bulls. At second-rate fights the forces
placed face to face are more evenly balanced; and there it is often the
bull that scores.


A raging controversy, illuminative of Tauromachia, has recently split
into two camps the bull-fighting world and agitated one-half of Spain.
The breeding of the fighting-bull is in this country a semi-æsthetic
pursuit, analogous to that of short-horns or racehorses in England, and
the possession of a notable herd the ambition of many of the grandees
and big landowners of Spain.

Among the various crack herds that of Don Eduardo Miura of Sevilla had
always occupied a prominent rank; while during recent years the power
and dashing prowess of the _Miureno_ bulls had raised that breed almost
to a level apart, invested with a halo of semi-mysterious quality.
Captures occurred at every _corrida_; man after man had gone down before
these redoubted champions, and the minds of surviving
matadors--saturated one and all with gipsy-sprung superstition--began to
attribute secret or supernatural powers to the dreaded herd. Not a
swordsman but felt unwonted qualm when meeting a _Miureno_ on the sanded
arena. Showy players with the _capa_ and the banderillos proved capable
of giving attractive exhibitions, but it was another matter when the
matador stood alone, face to face with his foe. Even second-class
_toréros_ can, with almost any bull, show off their accomplishments in
these lighter séances; but in the supreme rôle--that of killing the
bull as art demands--there is no room for half-measures or deceptions.
To valour, ability must be united. When those two qualities are not both
coupled and balanced, then one of two things happens: Either the scene
becomes a dull one, a mixture of funk and feebleness made patent all
round; or disaster is at hand. This one hears forecast in the strange
cries of this meridional people--from all sides come the shouts of
"_Hule! Hule!_" Now _Hule_ is the name of the material with which the
stretchers for the killed and wounded are covered!

At this period (summer of 1908) a combination of the bull-fighting craft
attempted a boycott of the Miura herd, or at least double pay for
killing them. This was done secretly at first, since neither would open
confession redound to the credit of the "pig-tail," nor did it promise
favourable reception by the public.

At this conjuncture a notable _corrida_ occurred at Seville--six
_Miurenos_ being listed for the fight. Ricardo Torres (Bombita II.)
despatched his first with all serenity and valour; with his second, a
magnificent animal worthy of a royal pageant, he would doubtless have
comported himself with equal skill but for an extraneous incident. Upon
rushing into the arena this bull had at once impaled a foolhardy amateur
named Pepín Rodriguez who (quite against all recognised rule) had madly
sprung into the ring. The poor fellow was borne out only in time to
receive the last religious rite.

At the precise moment when Ricardo stepped forth to meet his foe, the
murmur reached his ear--Pepín was dead, and his superstitious soul sank
down to zero at that whisper from without. When the critical moment
arrived--the popular matador stood pale, nerveless, incapable. Then the
scorn of the mighty crowd burst forth in monstrous yells. Ricardo Torres
had fallen from the pinnacle of fame to the level of a clumsy beginner.
In a moment he was disgraced, his increasing reputation ruined for ever
under the eyes of all the world--and that by a _Miureno_ bull. From that
moment the fallen star organised his colleagues in open rebellion
against the victorious breed.

The line of action adopted was to abuse and libel the incriminated herd.
It was urged that the bulls lacked the true qualities of dash and valour
and only scored by treachery; and especially insinuated that the young
bulls were expressly taught at their _tentaderos_, or trials on the open
plains, to discriminate between shadow and substance--in other words,
to seek the man and disdain the lure--this naturally making the rôle of
matador more dangerous, and double pay was demanded. To outsiders it
would appear that on the day when bulls learn this, bull-fighting must

A storm burst that raged all winter--all classes taking part. Spain was
rent in twain; press and people, high and low, joined issue in this
unseemly wrangle. We cannot here enter into detail of the various
schemes, fair and unfair, whereby the bull-fighters' guild sought to
justify their action and their demands and to prejudice the terrible
_Miurenos_ in the public eye. They were seconded by most professionals
of renown, and soon all but seven had joined the league. But the
squabble with its resultant lawsuits and sordid financial aspect finally
disgusted the public.

Needless to add, a counter-association of bull-breeders had been forced
into existence, which eventually, despite varied and particular personal
interests unworthy of definition, united the opposition. Oh! it was a
pretty quarrel and one in its essence peculiar to Spain. But it held the
whole country engaged all winter in the throes of a semi-civil war!

At the first _corrida_ of the following season--held at Alicante January
18, 1909, and graced by the presence of King Alfonso XIII. in
person--the public delivered their verdict, filling the Plaza to
overflowing, although the whole of the six champions were of the
condemned Miura breed and the matadors, Quinito and Rerre, belonged to
the recalcitrant Seven. The bull-fighters' guild had received a fatal

Such was the situation, the mental equilibrium between the fiercely
contending factions, as the crucial period approached--the Easter
_corridas_ at Seville. The _impresarios_ of that function, having full
grip of the circumstance, engaged matadors of minor repute--Pepete,
Moréno de Alcalá, and Martin Vasquez. All three, although but of second
rank, were popular and regarded as coming men.

Flaming posters announced that six champions of the Miura breed would
face the swordsmen.

The occasion was unique, and D. Eduardo Miura rose to meet it,
presenting six bulls of incomparable beauty, magnificent in fine lines,
in dash, brute-strength, and valour, yet utterly devoid (as the event
proved) of guile or lurking treachery. Such animals as these six
demanded a Romero, a Montes, or a Guerrita as equals; instead, these
young _Toréros_ who faced them, courageous though they were, lacked
calibre for such an undertaking. This _corrida_ marked an epoch, but it
acquired the proportions of a catastrophe. The bye-word that "where
there are bulls there are no matadors" became that afternoon an axiom.

A _gettatura_, or atmosphere of superstition, surrounded the bulls and
unnerved or confounded their opponents. Pepete was caught by the first
bull, Moréno de Alcalá by the fourth, while Martin Vasquez (already
thrice caught) succumbed to the fifth.

The sixth bull thus remained unopposed champion of the Plaza--not a
matador survived to face him, and it became necessary to entice an
unfought bull (by means of trained oxen) to quit the arena--an event
unprecedented in the age-long annals of Tauromachy!

A typical incident, trivial by comparison, intervened. A youthful
spectator, frenzied to madness by the scene, had seized a sword, leapt
into the ring, and ... promptly met his death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every contention of the bull-fighters' guild had been falsified, and the
association collapsed. A Sevillian paper summed up the event thus:--

     The six bulls were each worthy to figure in toromaquian annals for
     their beautiful stamp, their lines, weight, bravery, and caste. We
     witnessed a tragedy when, on the death of the fifth bull, not a
     matador remained. But had that tragedy been caused by malice,
     wickedness, or treachery on the part of the bulls, surely a
     declaration of martial law in this city would have been demanded by
     not a few! But that was not so; each of the six competed in the
     qualities of bravery, nobility, and adaptability--such bulls are
     worthy of better swordsmen.



We met, our trio, on the platform of Charing Cross--not classic but
perhaps historic ground, since so many notable expeditions have started
therefrom, with others of less importance.

The heat in Madrid towards the end of August (1896) was not
excessive--less than we had feared. We enjoyed, that Sunday, quite an
excellent bull-fight, although the bulls themselves had been advertised
as of "only one horn" apiece (_de un cuerno_). There was no sign,
however, of any cornual deficiency as each magnificent animal dashed
into the arena, although with binoculars one could detect a slight
splintering of one horn-point, a defect which had caused the rejection
of that animal from the herd-list. For these bulls were, in fact, of
notable blood--that of Ybarra of Sevillian _vegas_--and none bearing
that name appear in first-class _corridas_ save absolutely perfect and

The point illustrates the keen appreciation of quality in the
fighting-bull, which in Spain goes without saying, yet may well deceive
the casual stranger. Thus an American party who breakfasted with us
(always keen to get the best, but not always knowing where to find it)
despised the "Unicorns" and reserved themselves instead for the opera.
We enjoyed an excellent fight with dashing bulls--two clearing the
barrier and causing a fine stampede among the military, the police, and
crowds of itinerant fruit-and water-sellers who occupy the

These "Unicorns" proved really better bulls than at many of the formal
_corridas_. Three young and rising matadors despatched the animals--two
each. They were Galindo, Gavira, and Parrao--both the latter excellent.
Gavira looked as if he might take first rank in his order, while Parrao
displayed a coolness in the _lidia_ such as we had seldom before
seen--even to stroking the bull's nose--while in the final scene he
went in to such close quarters, "passing" the animal at half
arm's-length, that the whole 10,000 in the Plaza held their breath.
Parrao will become a first-flighter, unless he is caught, which
certainly seems the more natural event.

That evening we were hospitably entertained at the British Embassy,
where our host, the Chargé d'Affaires, regretted that the short
fourteen-days' Ortolan season had just that morning expired. Thus, quite
unconsciously, was an ornithological fact elucidated.

Next morning we were away by an early train, and after five hours'
journey joined our staff, as prearranged. But here we committed the
mistake of quartering in a country-town on the banks of the Tagus,
instead of encamping in the open country outside. Bitterly did we regret
having allowed ourselves to be thus persuaded. Long summer heats and
parching drought had destroyed what primitive system of natural drainage
may have existed in Talavera de la Reina and produced conditions that we
revolt from describing. Oh! those foul effluvia amidst which men live,
and feed, and sleep!

With intense delight, but splitting headaches, we left the plague-spot
at earliest dawn and set out for the mountain-land. For thirty odd miles
our route traversed a highland plateau; a group of five great bustard,
gasping in the noon-day heat, lay asleep so near the track that we tried
a shot with ball. Farther north, near Medina del Campo, we had also
observed these grand game-birds feeding on the ripening grapes in the
vineyards. Packs of sand-grouse (_Pterocles arenarius_) with musical
croak flew close around. Spanish azure magpies abounded wherever our
route passed through wooded stretches, and we also observed doves,
bee-eaters, stonechats, crested and calandra larks, ravens, and over
some cork-oaks wheeled a serpent-eagle showing very white below.

Towards evening the track began to ascend through the lower defiles of
the great cordillera that now pierced the heavens ahead. Presently we
entered pinewoods, resonant at dusk with the raucous voices of millions
of wingless grasshoppers or locusts (we know not their precise name)
that live high up in pines. Never before had we heard such strident
voice in an insect.

At 4000 feet we encamped beneath the pines by a lovely trout-stream.
This was the rendezvous whereat by arrangement we met with our old
friends the ibex-hunters of Almanzór--savage perhaps to the eye, yet
beyond all doubt radiantly glad to welcome back the foreigners after a
lapse of years. No mere greed of dollars inspired that enthusiasm, but
solely the bond of a common passion that bound us all--that of the
hunter. It was, however, but sorry hearing to listen to the reports they
told us around the camp-fire. Everywhere the ibex were yearly growing
scarcer, dwindling to an inevitable vanishing-point, former haunts
already abandoned--or, we should rather say, swept clean. Where but a
score of years before, 150 ibex had been counted in a single _montería_,
our friends reckoned that exactly a dozen survived. One remark
especially struck us. "There remained," with glee our friends assured
us, "one magnificent old goat, a ram of twelve years, out there on the
crags of Almanzór." _ONE!_ To _one_ sole big head had it dwindled?

[Illustration: "MINOR GAME"]

The valley of the Tagus divides two geological periods, and perhaps at
one time divided Europe from a retiring Africa. Marked differences
distinguish the fauna on either side of the river, and that of the north
(with its 10,000 feet altitude) promised reward worthy the labours of
investigation. Not a yard of that great mountain-land of Grédos has been
trodden by British foot (save our own) since the days of Wellington.
Hence it was an object with us to secure, not only ibex heads, but
specimens of the smaller mammalia that dwell in those heights. Our
mountain friends assembled round the camp-fire--twenty-five in all--each
promised to take up this unaccustomed quest and to regard as game every
hitherto unconsidered _bicho_ of the hills, whether feathered, furred,
or scaled. If ibex failed us, at least a harvest in such minor game we
meant to assure.[34]

Three o'clock saw us astir, bathing in the dark burn while moonlight
still streamed through sombre pines. Camp meanwhile was broken up;
tents and gear packed on ponies and mules, breakfast finished--we were
off, heavenwards. Then, just as the laden pack-animals filed through the
burn, there rode up a man--he had ridden all night--and bore a message
that changed our exuberant joy to grief--bad news from home.

There could be no doubt--the writer must return at once. Within five
minutes I had decided to make for a point on the northern railway beyond
the hills and distant some sixty miles as the crow flies. Baggage and
battery were abandoned; a handbag with a satchel of provisions and a
wine-skin formed my luggage, and, leaving my companions in this wild
spot, I set forth in the grey dawn on a barebacked mule devoid of
saddle, bridle, or stirrups, and accompanied by two of our hill-bred
lads, one riding pillion behind or running alongside in turn.

Where the grey ramparts of the Risco del Fraile and the Casquerázo frown
on a rugged earth below I parted with my old pals, they to continue the
ibex-hunt, I on my mournful homeward way.

Bee-eaters poised and chattered, brilliant butterflies (whose names I
forgot to note), abounded as we rode along those fearful edges and
boulder-studded steeps. Six hours of this brought us to a rock-poised
hamlet of the sierra. The landlord of the _posada_ was also the
_Alcalde_ (mayor) of the district, and even then presiding over a
meeting of the council (_ayuntamiento_). Amidst dogs, children, fleas,
and dirt, along with my two goat-herd friends, we made breakfast.

Thence over the main pass of Navasomera--no road, not the vestige of a
track, and a tremendous ravine stopped us for hours, and for a time
threatened to prove impassable. By patience and recklessness we lowered
mule and ourselves down scrub-choked screes, and after some of the
roughest work of my life gained a goat-herd's track which led upwards to
the pass. After clearing the reverse slope we traversed for twenty miles
a dreary upland (6000 feet) till we struck the head-waters of the
Albirche river, where my lads tickled half-a-dozen trout and a _frog_!
Kites beat along the stony hills, where wheatears and stonechats
fluttered incessant, with dippers and sandpipers on the burn below.

We halted at a lonely _venta_ (wayside wine-shop), where assembled
goat-herds courteously made room, and passed me their wine-skin.
Presently one of them asked whither I went, remarking, "Your Excellency
is clearly not of this province." Three or four skinny rabbits hung on
the wall, and the landlord, after inquiring what his Excellency would
eat, assured me he had plenty of everything, was yet so strong in his
commendation of _rabbit_ that I knew those wretched beasties were the
only food in the place. Presently with my two lads, and surrounded by
mules, cats, dogs, poultry, wasps, and fleas, we sat down to dine on
trout, rabbits-_á-pimiento_, and _chorizo_ (forty horse-power sausage).
I believe my boys also ate the frog!

Two hours after dark we were still dragging along the upland, while the
outlines of the jagged cordillera behind had faded in gathering night. I
could scarce have sat much longer on that bony saddleless mule when a
light was descried far below, and, on learning that we were still twenty
miles from our destination, I decided to put up for the night at that
little _venta_ of Almenge, sleeping on bare earth alongside my boys, and
close by the heels of our own and sundry other mules.


At breakfast there sat down, besides ourselves and hostess, sundry
muleteers, all sympathetic and commiserate since my mission had become
known. I was hurrying homewards to distant Inglaterra--so Juanito had
explained--because my brother was _poco bueno_--not very well. The
hostess looked hard, and said, "Señor, it must be _muy grave_ (very
serious), or they would not have telegraphed for the _caballero_ to

Many more hours of tedious mule-riding followed ere at last from
lowering spurs we could see the end of the hills and the white track
winding away till lost to view across the plain below.

Here in the highest growth of trees were grey shrikes (_Lanius
meridionalis_), adults and young, besides missel-thrushes, turtle-doves,
etc. On the level corn-lands below, which we now traversed for miles, we
observed bustards (these, we were told, retired to lower levels in
September)--nothing else beyond the usual larks and kestrels common to
all Spain.









It was past noon ere the long ride was completed, and we entered the
ancient city that boasts bygone glories, splendid temples, and memories
of mediæval magnificence, but which is now ... well, Avila. But one
feature of Avila demands passing note--its massive walls, withstanding
the centuries, full forty feet in height by fifteen feet broad. An hour
later the Sûd-express dashed up whistling into the station, to the
genuine alarm of my leather-clad mountain-lads, who recoiled in fear
from an unwonted sight. They, noticing that the officials of the train
also spoke a foreign tongue (French), asked me if such things (_i.e._
railway trains) were "only for your Excellencies"--meaning for
foreigners, _vos-otros_.

At Paris a reassuring telegram filled me with joy indescribable, but in
London and at York further messages intensified anxiety. On August 29 I
reached home, and on the evening of September 3 doubts were resolved,
and the silver cord was loosed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Plaza de Almanzór, with its immediate environment, presents a
panorama of mountain-scenery unrivalled, not only in the whole
cordillera of Grédos, but probably in all Spain--it may be questioned if
the world itself contains a more striking landscape than that known as
the "Circo de Grédos." Briefly put, a vast central amphitheatre of
rock--really four-square (though known as the "Circo") in the depths of
which nestle an alpine lake--is enclosed by stupendous rock-walls and
precipices of granite; some of these smooth and sheer, others rugged and
disintegrated or broken up by snow-filled gorges of intricacies that
defy the power of pen to describe. Three of these vast mural ramparts
stand almost rectangular, the fourth shoots out obliquely, traversing
the abysmal _enclave_ and all but closing the fourth side of its
quadrilateral. The rough sketch-map at p. 141 shows the configuration
better than written words, while the photos convey, so far as such can,
some idea of the scenery.[35]

The actual peak of Almanzór which dominates the whole "Circo," as viewed
from the north, culminates in a flattened cone, the summit being split
into two huge rock-needles or pinnacles separated by an unfathomed
fissure between. Only one of these needles--and that the lower--has yet
been scaled. The loftier of the pair, though it only surpasses its
fellow by a few yards in height, is so sheer, its surface so devoid of
crevice or hand-hold, that the ascent (without ropes and other
appliances) appears quite impracticable.

Will the reader seat himself in imagination at the spot marked (*) on
the map. Surveying the scene from this point, the whole opposite horizon
is filled by the Altos de Morezón--a jagged and turreted escarpment
pierces the sky, while its frowning walls dip down, down in endless
precipices to the inky-black waters of the Laguna far below.

Towards the left one's view is interrupted by an extraordinary mass of
upstanding granite, disintegrated and blackened by the ages, known as
the Ameál de Pablo--in itself a virgin mountain, as yet untrodden by
human foot. This colossus, glittering with snow-striæ, surmounts the
oblique ridge aforesaid, that of the Cuchillar del Guetre, which
traverses two-thirds of the "Circo," leaving but a narrow gap between
its own extremity and the opposite heights of Morezón.

Continuing towards the right, there rises to yet loftier altitudes the
black contour of the Risco del Fraile, beloved of ibex; while adjacent
on the north-west, but on slightly lower level, uprear from the
snow-flecked skyline three more unscaled masses--rectangular monoliths
like giant landmarks. This trio is distinguished as Los Hermanitos de
Grédos, their abruptness of outline almost appalling as set off by an
azure background.

Farther to the right (in the angle of the square) two more
mountain-masses--knife-edged, jagged, and embattled along the
crests--frown upon one another across a gorge rent through their very
bowels. These two are the Alto del Casquerázo and the Cuchillar de las
Navájas, while the interposed abyss--the Portilla de los Machos--cuts
clean through the great cordillera, forming a natural gateway between
its northern and its southern faces. As the name implies, this gorge is
the main route of the ibex from their much-loved Riscos del Fraile to
their second chief resort, the Riscos del Francés, which occupy the
southern face of the sierra whose snowfields defy even the heats of

From our present standpoint the southern wall of the Circo--the
Cuchillar de las Navájas--is not visible. This section of the
quadrilateral is equally abrupt and intricate, dropping in massive
bastions towards the level of the lake. Just beyond the Plaza de
Almanzór a second deep gorge or "pass"--the Portilla Bermeja--unites the
northern and the southern faces.

Behind where we sit lies yet another panorama of terrible wildness,
again dominated by rock-walls of fantastic contour--the valley of Las
Cinco Lagunas. But right here our rock-descriptive powers give out--we
can only refer to the map.



SIERRA DE GRÉDOS (_Continued_)


Why try to describe the distress of that morning or the efforts it cost,
during fourteen hours, to gain the summits of Grédos? Again and again
what we had taken for our destination proved to be some intervening
ridge with another desperate gorge beyond. Suffice it that it was an
hour after dark ere we finally lifted the cargoes from the dead-beat
beasts. Presently the moon arose, and against her pale effulgence
towered the gnarled and pinnacled peaks of Almanzór, piercing the very
skies--a lovely but to me an appalling scene. Their altitude is 8800

Our whole plan and ambitions in this expedition were to find and stalk
the ibex--the very undertaking which had proved beyond our powers during
two strenuous efforts in former years as readers of _Wild Spain_ already

Now in all stalking it must be obvious even to non-technical readers
that the first essential is to bring under survey of the binoculars a
very considerable extent of game-country every day; but here, in the
chaotic jumble of perpendicular or impending precipice or smooth
rock-faces inclined at angles that we dare not traverse, any such
extensive survey is a sheer impossibility. Alpine climbers or others in
the fullest enjoyment of youth and activity might get forward at a
reasonable speed. To us, already past that stage, the feat was
impossible, _i.e._ by our own sole exertions. That we, of course, knew
in advance; but our plan was to supplement our own powers by availing
the splendid rock-climbing abilities of our friends, the goat-herds of
Almanzór, on whom we relied for at least finding the game in the first



Ramón and Isidóro were away by the first glint of dawn, disappearing
in opposite directions so as to encompass both the surrounding
rock-ranges and to mark ibex in stalkable positions. We awaited their
return in camp, not only with anxiety, but with some impatience, since
the temperature had fallen so low that no wraps or blankets served to
keep us warm while inactive.

After a fruitless search of four hours, the scouts returned; no better
results attended a second morning and a third--nor our impatience.
Clearly the second resource, that of "driving," must now be tried. It
was only ten o'clock that third morning, and already the drivers, who
had left at dawn so as to reach agreed positions in case of the failure
of resource No. 1, would be approaching the fixed points four miles away
on the encircling heights, whereat, by signal, they would know whether
to proceed with the "drive" or to return by the circuitous route they
had gone. Meanwhile we have ourselves to reach the "passes" in the
heights above, and the scramble and struggle which that ascent involved
we must leave readers to imagine. Bertram gets through such work fairly
well, but the writer, a generation older, is fain to choose a lower
place, reputed a likely "pass." Here, after waiting an hour, we descried
the drivers showing-up at different points of those encircling Riscos de
Morezón, climbing like flies down perpendicular faces, disappearing in
gorges, and doing all that specialised hunters can. But not an ibex came
our way. When we reassembled, it proved that three goats had been seen,
one a ram. Thus ended that day--cruel work amidst lovely though terrible
scenery--and never a wild-goat within our sight.

On the morrow our selected positions were to be yet nearer the heavens
above than those of yesterday--along the highest skylines of Grédos,
between the Plaza de Almanzór and the Ameál. From our camp my own post
was pointed out, a niche in that far-away impossible ridge. How long, I
asked Ramón, do you imagine it will take me to reach it? Our friends,
who, lean and lythe of frame, a specialised race of mountaineers, mock
mountain-heights and appreciate too little (though they recognise) our
relative weakness, reply, "Two hours." But at that precise moment, while
I yet scanned with binoculars the scene of this supreme effort,
examining in a species of horror that infinity of piled rock-masses,
their details cruelly developed in a blazing sunlight, just then, across
the field of the glass soared a single lammergeyer. Now I know that
these giant birds-of-prey span some ten feet from wing to wing, and the
tiny speck that this one, reduced by distance, appeared on the
object-glass helped me to gauge what lay before us.

A black point that from camp I had mentally noted as a landmark proved
to be a mass of dolomite seamed with interjected striæ of glistening
felspar, big as a village church!


(LAMMERGEYER--_Gypaëtus barbatus_)]

I had demanded four hours, and precisely within that period reached my
celestial pinnacle. Bertram was beyond and higher still--where, I could
not see. But my own post seemed to me as sublime as even an ibex-hunter
could desire, at the culminating apex of the Spains and the centre of
dispersal of four giant gorges each bristling with bewildering chaos of
crags and rock-ruin, while above, to right and left, towered yet loftier

At these serene altitudes life appeared non-existent. The last signs of
a cryptogamic vegetation we had left below, and I could now see eagles
or vultures soaring almost perpendicularly beneath and reduced by
distance to moving specks.

Yet shortly before reaching our posts, along one of those awesome
shelves with a 500-feet drop below, a touch from Ramón drew my attention
to a truly magnificent old ibex-ram in full view, quietly skipping from
crag to crag some 300 yards above. So slow and deliberate were his
movements, with frequent halts to gaze, that time was allowed to gain a
rational position and to enjoy for several minutes a glorious view
through binoculars. Twice he halted in front of small snow-slopes,
against which those curving horns were set off in perfect detail. Then
with measured movements, making good each foot-hold, alternated by
marvellous bounds to some rock-point above, the grand wild-goat vanished
from view. His course led into a rock-region that already our drivers
were encompassing, hence we had strong hopes that we might not have seen
the last of him.

Two herds of ibex, it transpired, were enclosed in this beat; one
comprising nine females and small beasts, the second two with a
two-year-old ram; but our big friend was seen no more.

I had, however, enjoyed a scene that went far to compensate for the
tribulations it had cost.

Late that night the two lads who had accompanied A. returned to camp.
After riding fifteen hours on Wednesday, he could do no more, slept at a
_venta_, and reached Avila (which he considers twenty leagues from
Ornillos, the spot where he left us) at noon on Thursday, where he
caught the Sûd-express, and to-night will be in Paris. He sent us a few
pencilled words, urging us to utmost endeavours with the wild-goats, as
this will be in all probability our _last chance_. I agree, for the
natives kill off male and female alike, only a few wily old rams remain,
a mere fraction of the stock which formerly existed. The shepherds who
come to these high tops to pasture their herds for a few weeks each
summer have chances to kill the ibex which they do not neglect. When Don
Manuel Silvela, the statesman, was here twenty years ago, some 150 ibex
were driven past his post above the Laguna de Grédos. Not a quarter of
that number now survive in all the range.

_August 26._--Everything outside the tents was frozen solid last night,
but with sunrise the temperature goes up with a bound. We had trout for
breakfast, caught by hand from the burn below. To-day the work was
easier, for the two beats were both small and more or less on the same
level as our camp. The first lasted five hours, but gave no result. We
then moved to the west, always rising till we found ourselves on the
summit of another ridge looking down into a mighty gorge and upon the
mysterious rock-cradled Cinco Lagunas de Grédos. The plains of Castile
lay beneath us like a map, towns and villages distinguishable through
the glass though not without. Bertram was placed in a "pass," about 100
yards wide, piercing the topmost peaks, myself in a similar _portilla_
rather lower down. An hour later Dionýsio, who had climbed the crag
above me, whence he could see into the abyss beneath, signalled as he
hung over the edge of his eyrie that something was coming. Then he slid
down to my side to tell me that three goats were moving slowly up the
gorge. Dionýsio returned to his ledge, and for half an hour I enjoyed
that state of breathless suspense when one expects each moment to be
face to face with a coveted trophy. The three goats, I perceived, must
pass through this _portilla_ on one side or the other of the rock behind
which I lay expectant. At last there caught my ear the gentle patter of
horned hoofs on rocks, but oh!... it was succeeded by the bang of a gun.
Dionýsio had fired from his ledge twenty yards above me. The three ibex
had come on to within ten yards of where I lay, looking, as it were,
down a tunnel. The wind had been right enough, but it appeared an
erratic puff had elected to blow straight from us to them. They caught
it, and in a flash disappeared down the ravine, Dionýsio, as he hung
from the ledge, giving them a parting shot. That was friend Dionýsio's
version of the event. What actually occurred, all who are experienced in
this wild-hunting will divine without our telling. I ran from my post
along the lip of the abyss--luckily there was a bit of fairly good
going--hoping to get a chance as the game turned upwards again; for at
once, on hearing a shot, the beaters far below joined in a chorus of
wild yells to push them upwards. This they succeeded in doing, but the
goats passed beyond my range. I now saw there were four in all--three
females and a handsome ram. Dionýsio made a further effort to turn them,
which so far succeeded that the ram separated and bounded up the rocks
towards the higher pass, where he ran the gauntlet of Bertram within
thirty yards. Now the whole stress and burden of a laborious expedition
fell upon the youngest shoulders, for B. was barely out of his teens,
and more skilled with shot-gun than with ball. The responsibility proved
almost too great--almost, but not quite; for one bullet had taken
effect, and the rocks beyond the little "pass" were sprinkled with
blood. The late hour, 4 P.M., and the long scramble campwards forbade
our following the spoor that night, but the ram was recovered some two
miles beyond the point where we had last seen him--horn measurements
24-1/8 inches, by 8-1/4 inches basal circumference.





The beaters reported having seen several ibex during this drive, two
small rams, females, and kids--thirteen in all. We devoted a couple more
days to this section of the sierra, but both proved unsuccessful so far
as regards the one grand ibex-ram which we had seen. Here, on the Riscos
del Fraile, and later on at Villarejo, we each spared small beasts; but
at last were fain to be content with a three-year-old goat, whose head
adorns our walls.

Before daylight we were aroused by the breaking-up of camp, and by seven
o'clock had taken a downward course from that lofty eyrie which we had
occupied for ten days. It was a lovely ride with bright sunlight
lighting up every detail of the mountain scenery, while every mile
brought evidence of the lowering altitude--first, in green herbage, then
in brushwood and stunted trees, till at mid-day we reached the region of
pines in the cool valley of the river Tormes. Here we halted, and while
lunch was being prepared, enjoyed a swim in those crystal torrents. That
afternoon was devoted to trout, but with meagre results. The stream
gleamed like polished steel, everything that moved in the waters could
be seen, and doubtless its denizens enjoyed a similar advantage as
regards things in the other element. At any rate, none save the smaller
trout would look at a fly; so we continued our journey, following the
river-side in the direction of the mountains of Villarejo.

Dionýsio and Caraballo had gone to a hamlet lower down for bread and
wine. There was no bread, and having to wait till it was baked, delayed
the march. Meanwhile, we wandered on through pine-woods with the
beautiful stream fretting and foaming, and collecting a few
bird-specimens, though none of much interest. We did, however, come
across two gigantic nests of the black vulture, flat platforms of
sticks, each superimposed on the summit of a lofty pine. Even in these
uplands the black vulture nests in March, when the whole land is yet
enveloped in snow, and while frequent snowstorms sweep down the valleys.
So closely does the parent vulture incubate, that she allows herself to
be completely buried on her nest beneath the drifting snow. On these
hanging steeps the eyries are overlooked from above, yet not a vestige
of the sitting vulture can be seen until she is disturbed by a blow from
an axe on the trunk, or by a shot fired--then off she goes, dislodging a
cloud of snow from her three-yard wings as she launches into space.

[Illustration: BLACK VULTURE (_Vultur monachus_)]

The black vulture lays but one huge egg, often boldly marked and
suffused with dark-brown and rusty blotches and splashes, in contrast
with the eggs of the griffon vulture, which are usually colourless or,
at most, but faintly shaded.

The latter, so abundant in Andalucia, is remarkably scarce in Grédos,
where we saw rather more eagles than vultures. The chief bird-forms of
the high sierra were ravens and choughs, ring-ouzels, rock-thrush and
black-chat (_Dromolaea leucura_). The alpine accentor (_Accentor
collaris_) and alpine pipit (_Anthus spipoletta_) also reach to the
highest summits; the blue thrush lower down.

In the valley of the Tormes and among the pines many British species
were at home, such as blackbirds and thrushes, redstarts, nuthatches,
and Dartford warblers; besides the two southern wheatears, since found
to be but _one_ dimorphic form!


Three hours later the mule-train overtook us, and we pursued the track
upwards towards the Riscos de Villarejo till darkness obliged us to
encamp. The jagged outline ahead, marking our destination, looked far
away; we could go no nearer to-night, and outspanned on a tiny lawn on
the mountain-slope. Once more we had left tree and shrub far below, but
the dry _piorno_-scrub made fire enough to cook a frugal supper. The
hunters, with their stew-pots balanced on stones, sat round us in a

Next morning we were alert, as usual, before the dawn--called at 4
A.M.--and off again on another terrible climb towards the summits. It is
no mild trudge through turnips this 1st of September, but one more
effort to interview in his haunts the Spanish mountain-ram.

At 6000 feet we reached a point beyond which no domestic beast can go.
Here, leaving our own men to encamp, the upward climb with the hunters
begins. This day and each of the two following were devoted solely to
stalking, each of us separately with his guide taking a diverging course
along two of the lower ridges of the sierra. Two female ibex were
descried in a position which might without difficulty have been stalked.
These, however, we left in peace; though, as it proved, they were the
only animals seen before we regained camp, an hour after dark, tired out
and empty-handed once more. On the fourth day we drove this same
rock-region, but without success, only two goats, both small males,
being seen. The entire failure of this venture was a disappointment, as
ibex were known to frequent these reefs. An explanation was suggested
that a herd of domestic goats had approached too near their exclusive
wild congeners, which had fled to a neighbouring mountain. That
mountain, we arranged, should be explored at daylight on the morrow by
two of our hunters. The cold at night in camp was intense, and our
Andalucian retainers complained bitterly, although they kept an enormous
fire going; yet during the day the heat had been excessive, and the sun
burns terribly at these altitudes.

The following morning we tried a comprehensive drive encompassing two
gorges composed of sublimely grand rocks. As I look over the edge of the
black pinnacle that forms my post the sheer drop below is appalling, and
above me tower similar masses in rugged and frowning splendour. But not
a goat was seen till quite late in the afternoon, when two females
slowly approaching were descried. For a mile we watched them, so
deliberate was their progress, till they disappeared through the very
"pass" where A. had shot his some five years before.

_September 6._--Our scouts returned last night, having failed to locate
ibex on the opposite mountain; so we made a final effort on the Riscos
of Villarejo--again blank. Well! we have done our best for six days on
those terrible rocks, on which we must now turn our backs for the

At the village of Arénas de San Pedro we bade good-bye to all our
people; even their wives (clad in the same short skirts of greens and
other brilliant hues we had noticed in '91, for fashions change slowly
in the sierra) came down from Guisando to say farewell to the Ingléses.
Here Ramón brought in the head of Bertie's ibex shot the week before;
Ramón presented me with his powder-horn and bullet-pouch as a keepsake,
and Juanito with a mountain-staff. Our visit had marked an epoch in the
simple annals of the sierra and of its honest and primitive inhabitants.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-day we rejoice to add that, as already fully set forth at pp.
141-142, wild-goats may be counted in troops on the erewhiles
ibex-denuded crags of Almanzór.




Can this really be Europe--crowded Europe? For four long days we have
traversed Estremenian wilds, and during that time have scarce met a
score of folk, nor seen serious evidence of effective human occupation.
At first our northward way led through rolling undulations, the western
foothills of the long Sierra Moréna, clad with the everlasting
gum-cistus, with euonymus, a few stunted trees, and the usual aromatic
brushwood of the south. Only at long intervals--say a league or two
apart--would some tiny cot, of woodcutter perhaps, or goat-herd, gleam
white amidst the rolling green monotone. Here and there wild-thyme
(_cantuéso_) empurpled the slopes as it were August heather, but the
chief beauty-spot was the rose-like flower of the cistus, now (May) in
fullest bloom--waxy white, with orange centre and a splash like black
velvet on each petal. Next, for a whole day we ride through open forest
of evergreen oak and wild-olive, the floor carpeted with tasselled
grasses, tufty broom, and fennel. We encamp where we list and cut
firewood, none saying us nay or inquiring by what authority we do these

One evening while we investigated an azure magpie's nest in an ilex hard
by the tents, four donkey-borne peasants appeared. Though they rode
close by, yet they showed no sign, passing silent and incurious. The few
natives we met hereabouts all seemed listless, apathetic,
uncommunicative, in striking contrast with their sprightly southern
neighbours beyond the hills in Andalucia. We read that Estremadura is a
"paludic" province and unhealthy; possibly the malarial microbe has
sapped energy.

To forest, next day succeeded more rolling hills with ten-foot bush and
scattered trees. From a crag-crowned ridge, the culminating point of
these, there fell within view three human habitations--_three_, in a
vista of thirty miles--two tall castles perched in strong places, the
third apparently a considerable farm. The landscape is often lovely
enough, park-like, with infinite sites for country halls; yet all, all
seems abandoned by man and beast. The few wild creatures observed
included common and azure magpies, hoopoes, and bee-eaters, rollers,
doves, kestrels, with a sprinkling of partridge and an occasional hare.

A landowner in this province (Badajoz) endeavoured to preserve the game
on his estate. At first all went well. As their enemies decreased,
partridge rapidly multiplied. But thereupon occurred an influx of
extraneous vermin (foxes and wild-cats) from adjacent wilds, and Nature
restored her former exiguous balance of life.

[Illustration: ROLLER (_Coracias garrula_)]

The scene changes. For the next twenty miles there is not a tree or a
bush, hardly a living thing on those dreary levels save larks and
bustards. The hungry earth shows brown and naked through its scanty
herbage, stript by devouring locusts.

Travelling by rail the abandonment seems yet more striking, since thus
we cover more ground. True, along the line cluster some slight attempts
at cultivation elsewhere absent; but these amount to nothing--a few
patches of starveling oats, six to eighteen inches high, with scarce a
score of blades to the yard! Two men are reaping with sickles. Each has
his donkey tethered hard by, and at nightfall will ride to his distant
village, a league away maybe, hidden in some unnoticed hollow. Scarce a
village have we seen.

The monotony wearies. The abject barrenness of Estremadura, its
lifelessness, is actually worse, more pronounced and depressing, than we
had anticipated. Now the far horizon on the north bristles with
battlements, towers, and spires--that is Trujillo, an old-world fortress
of the Caesars, crowning a granite koppie in yon everlasting plain. The
ten leagues that yet intervene recall, in colour and contour, a
mid-Northumbrian moor, wild and bleak--here the home of bustards,
stone-curlew, sand-grouse, ... and of locusts.

From the topmost turrets of Trujillo let us take one more survey of this
Estremenian wilderness ere yet we pronounce a final judgment.

[Illustration: TRUJILLO]

Ascend the belfry of Santa Maria la Mayor and you command an unrivalled
view. Spread out beneath your gaze stretch away tawny expanses of waste
and veld to a radius averaging forty miles, and everywhere girt-in by
encircling mountains. To the north Grédos' snowy peaks pierce the
clouds, 100 kilometres away, with the Sierra de Gata on their left,
Bejar on the right. To the eastward the Sierra de Guadalupe,[36]
far-famed for its shrine to Our Lady of that ilk, closes that horizon;
while to westward the ranges of Sta. Cruz and Montánches shut in the
frontier of Portugal. What a panorama--a circle eighty miles across!

Yet in all that expanse you can detect no more evidence of human
presence than you would see in equatorial Africa--surveying, let us say,
the well-known Athi Plains from the adjoining heights of Lukénia.

We are aware that already, in describing La Mancha, we have employed an
African simile; but here, in Estremadura, the comparison is yet more
apposite and forceful than in the wildest of Don Quixote's country. We
will vary it by likening Estremadura rather to the highlands of
Transvaal--the land of the back-veld Boer--than to Equatoria. Here, as
there, rocky koppies stud the wastes, and (differing from La Mancha)
water-courses traverse them, with intermittent pools surviving even in
June, stagnant and pestilent. Such in Africa would be
jungle-fringed--worth trying for a lion! Here their naked banks scarce
provide covert for a hare.

[Illustration: "SCAVENGERS"]

An index of the poverty-stricken condition of Estremadura is afforded by
the comparative absence of the birds-of-prey. Never do the soaring
vultures--elsewhere so characteristic of Spanish skies--catch one's eye,
and very rarely an eagle or buzzard. A province that cannot support
scavengers promises ill for mankind.

In his mirror-like "Notes from Spain," Richard Ford suggested that the
vast unknown wildernesses of Estremadura would, if explored, yield store
of wealth to the naturalist, and each succeeding naturalist (ourselves
included) followed that clue. Therein, however, lurked that old human
error, _ignotum pro mirabili_. Deserted by man, the region is equally
avoided by bird and beast. We write generally and in full sense of local
exceptions--that wild fallow-deer, for example, find here one, possibly
their only European home;[37] that red deer of superb dimensions, roe,
wolves, and wild-boars abound on Estremenian sierra and _vega_. Then,
too, there may well be isolated spots of interest in 20,000 square
miles, but which escaped our survey. Yet what we write represents the
essential fact--Estremadura is a barren lifeless wilderness and offers
no more attraction to naturalist than to agriculturist.

The cause of all this involves questions not easily answered. In earlier
days the case may have been different. Obviously the Romans thought
highly of Estremadura and meant to run it for all it was worth. The
Caesars were no visionaries, and such colossal works as their reservoirs
and aqueducts at Merida, the massive amphitheatre and circus at the same
city (a half-completed bull-ring stands alongside in pitiful contrast),
besides their construction of a first-class fortress at Trujillo, all
attest a matured judgment. After the Romans came the Goths, and they,
too, have left evidence of appreciation (though less conspicuous) alike
in city and country. Four hundred years later the Arabs overthrew the
Goths on Guadalete (A.D. 711), and within two years had overrun
two-thirds of Spain. But the Moor (so far as we can see) despised these
barren uplands, or perhaps assessed them at a truer value--a single
strong outpost (Trujillo) in an otherwise worthless region.

Much or little, however, each of those successive conquerors found
_some_ use for Estremadura. A totally different era opened with the fall
of Moslem dominion. After the _Reconquista_ and subsequent extermination
of the Moors (seventeenth century), Estremadura was utterly abandoned,
by Cross and Crescent alike, till the highland shepherds of the Castiles
and of León, looking down from its northern frontier, saw in these
lower-lying wastes a useful winter-grazing. Then commenced seasonal
nomadic incursions thereto, pastoral tribes driving down each autumn
their flocks and herds, much as the Patriarchs did in Biblical days--or
the Masai in East Africa till yesterday.

Though the land itself was ownerless, shadowy prescriptive rights
gradually evolved, and under the title of _Mestas_ continued to be
recognised by the pastoral nomads till abolished by Royal Decree in the
sixteenth century. From that date commenced the subdivision of
Estremadura into the present large private estates--again recalling the
back-veld Boers, who hate to live one within sight of another, except
that here owners are non-resident.

All this may explain superficially the existing desolation. The
essential causes, however, are, we believe, (1) barrenness of soil; and
(2) an enervating climate, fever-infected by stagnant waters, dead
pools, and ubiquitous shallow swamps that poison the air and produce
mosquitoes in millions.

Gazing in reflective mood upon those magnificent memorials of Roman rule
at Merida, one is tempted to wonder whether, after all, the silent ruins
(with a stork's nest on each parapet) do not yet point the true way to
Estremenian prosperity--IRRIGATION (plus energy--a quality one misses in


Founded 2000 years back (by Augustus Caesar), this out-of-the-world city
has a knack of periodically dropping out of history--skipping a few
centuries at a time--meanwhile presumably dragging on its own dreamy
unrecorded existence, "by the world forgot," till some fresh incident
forces it on the stage once more. There were stirring times here while,
for near a thousand years, the upland vegas were swept and ravaged by
three successive waves of foreign invasion. Then Trujillo relapsed into
trance, skipped the middle ages, and awoke to find at its gates another
foreign foe--this time the French.

And the city reflects these vicissitudes. The Roman fortress,
magnificent in extent and military strength, completely covers the
rugged granite heights, imposing still in crumbling ruin. Forty-foot
ramparts with inner and outer defences, bastions and flanking towers,
machicolated and pierced for arrow fire, crown the whole circuit of the
koppie. Signs of ancient grandeur everywhere meet one's eye; but
contrasts pain at every turn. For filthy swine to-day defile palaces;
donkeys are stalled in sculptured _patios_ whence armoured knight on
Arab steed once rode forth to clatter along the stone-paved ravelins
that led to the point of danger. From mullioned embrasures above, whence
the Euterpes and Lalagés of old waved tender adieux, now peer slatternly
peasants; crumbling battlements form homes for white owls and bats,
kestrels, hoopoes, and a multitude of storks such as can nowhere else be
seen congregated in a single city. The sense of desolation is
accentuated by finding such feathered recluses as blue rock-thrush and
blackchat actually nesting in the very citadel itself.

The citadel marks the era of war. The Goths followed and despised
fortifications. Their ornate palaces, enriched with escutcheons and
sculptured device, lie below, outside the Roman walls.

After the Goths and after the Moors, Trujillo enjoyed a transient
awakening when Pizarro, son of an Estremenian swine-herd, with Cortez
(also born hard by), swept the New World from Mexico to the Andes, and
the glory of her sons, with the gold of the Incas, poured into the city.
Thereafter destiny altered. Instead of consolidating new-won dominions
by fostering commerce, exploiting their resources by establishing forts
and factories, plantations, harbours, and the like, Spain directed her
energies to missionising. Instead of commercial companies with fleets of
merchantmen, she sent out sacred Brotherhoods, friars of religious
orders, and studded the New World with empty names, all acts right
enough and laudable in their own proper time and place.

       *       *       *       *       *

Trujillo boasts an industry in the manufacture of a rough red-brown
earthenware, chiefly tall water-jars, amphora-shaped, which damsels
carry upright on their heads with marvellous balance; and iron-spiked
dog-collars as here represented. These are not suitable for lap-dogs,
but for the huge mastiffs employed in guarding sheep and which, without
such protection, would be devoured by wolves!


(Six-inch diameter.)]

Hitherto our journeys have led us chiefly through the Estremenian plain,
but after passing Plasencia the country changes. We enter the outliers
of those great sierras that shut out Estremadura from León and Castile,
from Portugal--and the world! Here one quickly perceives signs of
greater prosperity, due in part to the heavier rainfall from the hills,
to a slightly richer soil, but mainly to the superior energy of
hill-folk. Wherever the soil warrants it, cultivation is pushed right up
amidst the jungled slopes of the hills.

In the folds of the sierra grow magnificent woods of Spanish chestnut
with some walnut trees, and among these we observed many fresh species
of birds, including:--nuthatch (not seen elsewhere in Spain), green
woodpecker, common (but no azure) magpies, golden orioles, pied and
spotted fly-catchers, grey and white wagtails (breeding), whitethroats
and nightingales, longtailed tits, woodlarks, corn-buntings,
rock-sparrows, and quite a number of warblers (spectacled, rufous, and
subalpine, Bonelli's and melodious willow-warblers), besides the usual
common species--serins, chaffinches, robins, wrens, and so on. On the
sterile upland plateaux, both here and in Castile, the black-bellied
sand-grouse breeds, as well as stone-curlew, bustard, and the usual
larks and chats.



At the extreme northern verge of the plain one encounters a singular
survival of long-past and forgotten ages, the "fenced city" of
Granadilla, so absolutely unspoilt and unchanged by time that one
breathes for a spell a pure mediæval air. Granadilla is mentioned in no
book that we possess; but it stands there, nevertheless, perched on a
rocky bluff above the rushing Alagón, and entirely encompassed by a
thirty-foot wall. Not a single house, not a hut, shows up outside that
rampart, and its single gate is guarded by a massive stone-built tower.

This tower, we were told by a local friend, was erected after the
"Reconquest" (which here occurred about 1300), but the bridge which
spans the Alagón, immediately below, is attributed to the Romans--more
than a thousand years earlier! and the town itself to the Moors--a
pretty tangle which some wandering archaeologist may some day
unravel.[38] That the Moors established a settlement here, or hard by,
we are confident owing to the existence of extensive _huertas_
(plantations) a few miles up the banks of Alagón. This is just one of
those _enclaves_ of rich soil for which the Arabs always had a keen eye;
and ancient boundary-walls, with evidence of extreme care in irrigation
and cultivation, all bespeak Moorish handiwork. These _huertas_ are
planted with fig, pomegranate, cherry, and various exotic fruit-trees,
besides cork-oak and olive; every tree displaying signs of extreme old
age--though that strikes one in most parts of Spain. Never have we seen
more luxuriant crops of every sort than in those ancient _huertas_. Yet
they are inset amid encircling wastes!

Granadilla (its name surely suggests cherished memories in its founders
of the famous Andalucian _vega_) lies at the gate of that strange wild
mountain-region called Las Hurdes.



Isolated amidst the congeries of mountain-ranges that converge upon
León, Castile, and Estremadura, lies a lost region that bears this name.
The Hurdes occupy no small space; they represent no insignificant nook,
but a fair-sized province--say fifty miles long by thirty broad--severed
from the outer world; cut off from Portugal on the one side, from Spain
on the other; while its miserable inhabitants are ignored and despised
by both its neighbours.


Who and what are these wild tribes (numbering 4000 souls) that, in a
squalor and savagery incredible in modern Europe, cling, in solitary
tenacity, to these inhospitable fastnesses?

Possibly they are the remnants of Gothish fugitives who, 1200 years ago,
sought shelter in these hills from Arab scimitars; other theories trace
their origin back to an earlier era. But whether Goths or Visigoths,
Vandals or other, these pale-faced Hurdanos are surely none of swarthy
Arab or Saracenic blood; and equally certainly they are none of Spanish
race. The Spanish leave them severely alone--none dwell in Las Hurdes.
Being neither ethnologists nor antiquaries, nor even sensational
writers, the authors confine themselves to their personal experience,
stiffened by a study of what the few Spanish authorities have collated
on the subject.

Whatever their origin may have been, the Hurdanos of to-day are a
depraved and degenerate race, to all intents and purposes savages, lost
to all sense of self-respect or shame, of honesty or manliness. Too
listless to take thought of the most elementary necessities of life,
they are content to lead a semi-bestial existence, dependent for
subsistence on their undersized goats and swine, on an exiguous and
precarious cultivation, eked out by roots and wild fruits such as
acorns, chestnuts, etc., and on begging outside their own region.

First, as to their country. Picture a maze of mountains all utterly
monotonous in uniform configuration--long straight slopes, each skyline
practically parallel with that beyond, bare of trees, but clad in
shoulder-high scrub. On approaching from the south, the hills are lower
and display delightful variety of heaths (including common heather); but
as one penetrates northwards, the bush is reduced to the everlasting
gum-cistus, and elevations become loftier and more precipitous till they
culminate in the sheer rock-walls of the Sierra de Gata. Here, in remote
glens, one chances on groves of ilex and cork-oak, whose gnarled boles
attest the absence of woodcutters, while huge trunks lie prostrate,
decaying from sheer old age. Here and there one sees an ilex enveloped
to its summit in parasitic growths of creepers and wild-vine, whose
broad, pale-green leaves contrast pleasingly with the dusky foliage and
small leaf of its host.

In the deep gorges or canyons of these mountains are situate the
settlements, called _Alquerías_, of the wild tribes, most of them
inaccessible on horseback. That of Romano de Arriba, for example, is
plunged in such an abyss that from November to March no ray of sunshine
ever reaches it. A similar case is that of Casa Hurdes, which, as seen
from the bridle-track leading over the Sierra de Portéros into Castile,
appears buried in the bottom of a crevasse. Others, in the reverse, are
perched on high, amidst crags that can only be surmounted by a severe
scramble up broken rock-stairways.

These _alquerías_--warrens we may translate the word--consist of
den-like hovels straggling without order or huddled together according
as the rock-formation may dictate--some half-piled one on another,
others separate. Many are mere holes in the earth--lairs, shapeless as
nature left their walls, but roofed over with branches and grass held in
place by schistose slabs that serve for slates. Hardly, in some cases,
can one distinguish human dwellings from surrounding bush, earth, or
rock. As our companion, a civil guard, remarked of one set of eyries
that adhered to a cliff-face, they rather resembled "the nests of
crag-martins" (_nidos de vencéjos_) than abodes of mankind.

Within are two tiny compartments, the first occupied by goats or swine,
the second littered with bracken on which the whole family sleep,
irrespective of age or sex. There is no light nor furniture of any
description; no utensils for washing, hardly even for cooking. True,
there is in some of the lairs a hollowed trunk which may serve as a bed,
but its original design (as the name _batane_ imports) was for pressing
the grapes and olives in autumn. No refuse is ever thrown out; even the
filthy ferns are retained for use as manure for the orchards--in a word,
these poor creatures habitually sleep on a manure-heap. Even wild
beasts, the wolves and boars, are infinitely more attentive to domestic
cleanliness and purity.

Another _alquería_ visited by the authors, that of Rubiáco, consisted of
a massed cluster of sties embedded on the slopes of a low ridge bordered
on either side by crystal-bright mountain streams. So timid and shy are
the natives that several were descried actually taking to the hill on
our appearance. A distribution of tobacco, with coloured handkerchiefs
for the women, restored a measure of confidence, and we succeeded in
collecting a group or two for the camera. The day, however, was dull and
overcast, and rain, unluckily, fell at that precise moment.

These people, clad in patch-work of rags, leather and untanned skins,
were undersized, pallid of complexion, plain (though we would scarce say
repulsive) in appearance, with dull incurious eyes that were instantly
averted when our glances met. The men, otherwise stolid and
undemonstrative, affected a vacuous grin or giggle, but utterly devoid
of any spark of joy or gladness. Many (though by no means all) displayed
distinctly flattened noses, somewhat of the Mongolian type; and not even
among the younger girls could a trace of good looks be detected. All
went bare-foot, indeed bare-legged to the knee.

On opening the door of a den--an old packing-case lid, three feet high,
secured by a thong of goatskin--two pigs dashed forth squealing, and at
the first step inside the writer's foot splashed in fetid moisture
hidden beneath a litter of green fern. It being dark within, and too low
to stand upright, I struck a match and presently became aware of a
living object almost underfoot. It proved to be a baby, no bigger than a
rabbit, and with tiny black bead-like eyes that gleamed with a wild
light--never before have we seen such glance on human face. While
examining this phenomenon, a sound from the inner darkness revealed a
second inmate. We crept into this lair, scrambling up two steps in the
natural rock, and from the fern-litter arose a female. She stood about
three feet high, had the same wild eyes, unkempt hair, encrusted brown
with dirt, hanging loose over her naked shoulders--a merciful darkness
concealed the rest. She appeared to be about ten years old, and dwarfed
and undersized at that; yet she told us she was fourteen, and the mother
of the rabbit-child, also that its father had deserted her a month
ago--ten days before its birth. The lair contained absolutely no
furniture, unless dead fern be so styled. Can human misery further go?

The next hovel did contain a _batane_, or hollowed tree, in which lay
some scanty rags like fragments of discarded horse-cloths. So lacking
are these poor savages in any sufficient clothing, whether for day or
night, that the children, we were assured, were habitually laid to sleep
among the swine, in order to share the natural warmth of those beasts.
In one abode only did we discover such convenience as a wooden chest. It
contained a handful of potatoes, some chestnuts, and a broken iron
cooking-pot. We examined another den or two--practically all were alike.
If anything was there that escaped our attention we had an excuse--the
aroma (personal, porcine, and putrid) was more than the strongest could
endure for many minutes on end.

We turned away. Mingled feelings of loathing, of pity, and of despair at
the utter hopelessness of it all filled our minds. There, not a hundred
yards away, a contrasted sight met our eyes, one of humbler nature's
most perfect scenes: a fledgeling brood of white wagtails tripped gaily
along the burnside--types of pure spotless beauty, overflowing with high
spirits and the joy of life. A few minutes later, and a pair of
ring-plovers (_Aegialitis curonica_) on the river accentuated the same
pitiful contrast.

Such small cultivation as exists in the Hurdes is carried on under
supreme difficulty. The hills themselves are uncultivable, and the only
opportunities that present themselves are either chance open spaces
amidst interminable rock, or such rare and narrow strips of soil as can
exist between precipitous slopes and the banks of the streams. Here
little garden-patches, thirty or forty feet long by a dozen in width,
are reclaimed; but the very earth is liable to be swept away by
winter-floods pouring down the mountain-sides, and has to be replaced by
fresh soil carried--it may be long distances--on men's shoulders. Here a
few potatoes may be raised and in the broader valleys scant crops of
rye. The few fruit trees are neglected, and therefore give short yield,
though what little is produced is of exquisite flavour, comprising figs,
cherries, a sort of peach (_pavia_), olives, and vines. All crops are
subject to the ravages of wild-boars, which roam in bands of a dozen to
a score, fearless of man and molested by none; while wolves take toll of
the flocks.

[Illustration: WHITE WAGTAIL]

Red deer also wander freely and unpreserved over these ownerless
hills--possibly the only place in Europe where such is the case. We
inquired whether many were shot, but were told that such an event
occurred rarely, though the Hurdano gunner might often approach within
close range. "We are not _enseñados_ [instructed] in the arts of chase,"
explained our informant. A few partridges and hares are found, with
trout in the upper waters.

Despite their degradation, the Hurdanos, we were assured, display no
criminal taint such as is inherent among Gipsies.

As regards the habits and customs of these people, we here roughly
transcribe from the work of Pascual Madoz[39] some selected extracts
that appear to be as accurate to-day as when they were written some
sixty years ago.

     The food of the Hurdanos is as noxious as it is scanty. The potato
     is the general stand-by, either boiled or cooked with crude goat's
     suet; sometimes beans fried in the same grease, and lastly the
     leaves of trees, boiled; with roots, the stalks of certain wild
     grasses, chestnuts, and acorns. Bread is practically unknown--all
     they ever have is made of coarse rye and such crusts as they obtain
     by begging outside their district. Only when at the point of death
     is wheaten bread provided.

     Their clothing consists of a shapeless garment reaching from the
     hip to the knee, a shirt without collar, fastening with one button,
     and a sack carried over the shoulder. They have no warm clothing
     and all go bare-foot. The women are even less tidy and dirtier than
     the men. Never have they a vestige of anything new--nothing but
     discarded garments obtained by begging, or in exchange for
     chestnuts, at the distant towns. Their usual "fashion" is never to
     take off, to mend, or to wash any rag they have once put on--it is
     worn till it falls off through sheer old age and dirt. They never
     wash nor brush their hair, and go bare-legged like the men.


     Walls 10 feet high: note the shepherd's dwelling alongside. Within
     are sheep.]

     These, moreover, are the richest; the majority being clad in
     goatskins (untanned) that they kill or that die. These skins the
     men fix round their necks, girt at waist and round the knees with
     straps; the women merely an apron from the waist downward.

     Men and women alike are dwarfed in stature and repugnant in
     appearance, augmented by their pallor and starveling look. On the
     other hand, they are active and expert in climbing their native
     mountains. There is no outward difference in the sexes as regards
     their lives and means of subsistence.

     All their environment tends to make them untractable and savage
     (_sylvaticos_), shunning contact with their kind, even fleeing at
     sight and refusing to speak. They have no doctors nor surgeons,
     relying on certain herbs for medicines; yet they live long lives.
     They only recognise the passing seasons by the state of vegetation
     and of the atmosphere. They sow and reap according to the phases of
     the moon, of which they preserve an accurate observation. Religion
     and schools alike are unknown. They glory in their freedom from all
     moral suasion, and rejoice in the most brutal immorality and
     crime--including parricide and polygamy. There are _alquerías_
     wherein no priest has set foot, nor do they possess the faintest
     sense of Christian duties.

     It seems incredible that in the midst of two provinces both wealthy
     and well reputed there should exist a plague-spot such as we have
     painted, unknown as the remotest kraals of Central Africa.

Thus Pascual Madoz in 1845, and but little external change has become
apparent in sixty-five subsequent years.[40] Churches, it is true, have
been erected, priests and schoolmasters appointed. Amelioration,
however, by such means can only come very slowly--if at all. The
physical and domestic status of these poor savages must first be raised
before they are mentally capable of assimilating the mysteries of
religion. Spain, however, owes them something. They are heavily
taxed--beyond their power to pay in cash. Thus they are cast into the
power of usurers. In each _alquería_, we were told, is usually found one
man more astute than the rest, and he, in combination with some sordid
scoundrel outside, exploits the misery of his fellows. A species of
semi-slavery is thus established--in some ways analogous to the baneful
system of _Caciquismo_ outside.

The Hurdanos are also subject to the conscription and furnish forty to
fifty recruits yearly to the Spanish army. Curiously, time-expired men
all elect to return to their wretched lot in the mountains. On our
asking one of these (he had served at Melilla), "Why?" his reply was,
"for liberty."[41]

There is a villainous custom in vogue that hurls these poor wretches yet
farther down the bottomless pit. This abomination rages to-day as it did
a hundred years ago: we therefore again leave old Pascual Madoz to tell
the tale in his own words:--

     Many women make a miserable livelihood--it is indeed their only
     industry--by rearing foundling infants from the hospitals of Ciudad
     Rodrigo and Placencia. So keen are they of the money thus obtained
     that one woman, aided by a goat, will undertake to rear three or
     four babes--all necessarily so ill-tended and ill-fed as rather to
     resemble living spectres than human beings. Cast down on beds of
     filthy ferns and lacking all maternal care, the majority perish
     from hunger, cold, and neglect. The few that reach childhood are
     weaklings for life, feeble and infirm.

This repulsive "industry" continues to-day, a sum of three dollars a
month being paid by the authorities of the cities named to rid
themselves of each undesired infant. The effect--direct and
incidental--upon morals and sexual relationship in the _alquerías_ of
the Hurdes may (in degree) be deduced--it cannot be set down in words.
Thus the single point of contact with civilisation serves but to
accentuate the degradation.



Over the vast expanse of those silent solitudes, the corn-growing
steppes of Spain--all but abandoned by human denizens--this grandest and
most majestic of European game-birds forms the chief ornament. When the
sprouting grain grows green in spring, stretching from horizon to
horizon, you may form his acquaintance to best advantage. And among the
things of sport are few more attractive scenes than a band of great
bustards at rest. Bring your field-glass to bear on the gathering which
you see yonder, basking in the sunshine in full enjoyment of their
mid-day siesta. There are five-and-twenty of them, and immense they look
against the green background of corn that covers the landscape--well may
a stranger mistake the birds for deer or goats. Many sit turkey-fashion,
with heads half sunk among back-feathers; others stand in drowsy yet
ever-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 the lower plumage.[42] The
bustard are dotted in groups over an acre or two of gently sloping
ground, the highest part of which is occupied by a single big
_Barbudo_--a bearded veteran, the sentinel of the pack. From that
elevated position he estimates what degree of danger each living thing
that moves on the open region around may threaten to his company and to
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 ere 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 be sufficient cause for setting his
convoy in motion. If we disappear below the level of his range, he will
settle the point negatively, setting us down as merely 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.

[Illustration: THE GREAT BUSTARD]

Another charming spectacle it is in the summer-time to watch a pack of
bustard about sunset, all busy with their evening feed among the
grasshoppers on a thistle-clad plain. They are working against time, for
it will soon be too dark 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 pursuit that the best chance of the day
is then offered to a gunner, when greed for a moment supplants caution
and vigilance is relaxed. But even now a man on foot stands no chance of
coming anywhere near them. His approach is observed from afar, all heads
are up above the thistles, every eye intent on the intruder; a moment or
two of doubt, two quick steps and a spring, and the broad wings of every
bird in the pack flap in slowly rising motion. The tardiness and
apparent difficulty in rising from the ground which bustards exhibit is
well expressed in their Spanish name _Avetarda_[43] and recognised in
the scientific cognomen of _Otis tarda_. Once on the wing the whole
band is off with wide swinging flight to the highest ground in the

The chase of the great bustard presents characteristics and attractions
peculiar to itself and differing from that of all other winged game.
Rather it resembles the scientific pursuit of big game; for this is a
sport in which the actual shot becomes of secondary importance, merely a
culminating incident--the consummation of previous forethought,
fieldcraft, and generalship. Success in bustard-shooting--alike with
success in stalking--is usually attributable to the leader, who has
planned the operation and directed the strategy, rather than to the man
who may have actually killed the game. We here refer exclusively to what
we may be permitted to call the scientific aspect of this chase, as
practised by ourselves and as distinguished from other (and far more
deadly) methods in vogue among the Spanish herdsmen and peasantry.
Before describing the former system, let us glance at native methods of
securing the great bustard.

During the greater part of the year bustard are far too wary to be
obtained by the farm-hands and shepherds who see them every day--so
accustomed are the peasantry to the sight of these noble birds that
little or no notice is taken of them and their pursuit 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 an adaptive genius is required to
utilise 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 bucketful
after bucketful of cool water, the cattle crowd around, impatient to
receive it as it rushes down 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; and 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.

Comparatively large numbers of bustard are destroyed thus every summer.
It is deadly work and certain. Luckily, however, the plan enjoys but a
single success, since bands, once shot at, never return.

A second primitive method of capturing the great bustard is practised in
winter. The increased value of game during the colder months induces the
bird-catchers, who then supply the markets with myriads of ground-larks,
linnets, buntings, etc., occasionally to direct their skill towards the
capture of bustard by the same means as prove efficacious with the small
fry--that is, the _cencerro_, or cattle-bell, combined with a dark

As most cattle carry the cencerro around their necks, the sound of the
bell at close quarters by night causes no alarm to ground-birds. The
bird-catcher, with his bright lantern gleaming before its reflector and
the cattle-bell jingling at his wrist, prowls nightly around 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 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 they see the light approaching.

[Illustration: CALANDRA LARK

A large and handsome species characteristic of the corn-lands.]

The third (and by far the most murderous) means of destruction is due,
not so much to rural peasantry as to _cazadores_--shooters from
adjoining towns--men who should know better, and whom, in other
respects, we might rank as good sportsmen; but who, alas! can see no
shame in shooting the hen-bustards with their half-fledged broods in the
standing corn during June and July--albeit the deed is done in direct
contravention of the game-laws! Dogs, especially pointers, are employed
upon this quest when the mother-bustards, being reluctant to leave their
young, lie as close as September partridges in a root-crop; while the
broods, either too terrified or too immature to fly, are frequently
caught by the dogs. We regret that there are those who actually descant
with pride upon having slaughtered a dozen or more of these helpless
creatures in a day; while others are only restrained from a like crime
by the scorching solar heats of that season.

More bustards are killed thus than by all the other methods combined--a
hundred times more than by our scientific and sportsmanlike system of
driving presently to be described.

Except for this unworthy massacre of mothers with their broods in
summer, and the two clumsy artifices before mentioned, the bustards are
left practically unmolested--their wildness and the open nature of their
haunts defy all the strategy of native fowlers. The hen-bustard deposits
her eggs--usually three, but on very rare occasions four--among the
green April corn; incubation and the rearing of the young take place in
the security of vast silent stretches of waving wheat. The young
bustards grow with that wheat, and, ere it is reaped (unless prematurely
massacred), are able to take care of themselves. A somewhat more
legitimate method of outwitting the great bustard is practised at this
season. During harvest, while the country is being cleared of crops, the
birds become accustomed to see bullock-carts daily passing with creaking
wheel to carry away the sheaves from the stubble to the _era_, or
levelled threshing-ground, where the grain is trodden out, Spanish
fashion, by teams of mares. The loan of a _carro_ with its pair of oxen
and their driver having been obtained, the cart is rigged up with
_estéras_--that is, esparto-matting stretched round the uprights which
serve to hold the load of sheaves in position. A few sacks of straw
thrown on the floor of the cart save one, in some small degree, from the
merciless jolting of this primitive conveyance on rough ground. Two or
three guns can find room therein, while the driver, lying forward,
directs the team with a goad.

This moving battery fairly resembles a load of sheaves, and well do we
remember the terrible, suffocating heat we have endured, shut up for
hours in this thing during the blazing days of July and August. The
result, nevertheless, repays all suffering. We refer to no mere
cynegetic pride but to the enduring joy of observing, at close quarters
and still unsuspicious, these glorious game-birds at home on their
private plains. The local idea is to fire through a slit previously made
in the _estéras_; but somehow, when the cart stops and the game
instantly rises, you find (despite care and practice) that the birds
always fly in a direction you cannot command or where the narrow slit
forbids your covering them. Hence we adopted the plan of sliding off
behind as the cart pulled up, thus firing the two barrels with perfect
freedom. We have succeeded by this means in bringing to bag many pairs
of bustard during a day's manoeuvring.


We now come to the system of bustard-driving, which we regard as
practically the only really legitimate method of dealing with this grand
game. From the end of August onwards the young bustards are perfectly
capable of taking care of themselves. The country is then cleared of
crops, and while this precludes the birds being "done to death" as in
the weeks immediately preceding, yet the ubiquitous thistles (often of
gigantic size, ten or twelve feet in height), charlock, and _viznagas_
provide welcome covert for concealing the guns, while the heat still
renders the game somewhat more susceptible to the artifices of the
fowler. This is the easiest period.

As the season advances the hunter's difficulties increase. The brown
earth becomes daily more and more naked, while files of slow-moving
ox-teams everywhere traverse the stubble, ploughing league-long furrows
twenty abreast. These factors combine to aid the game and stretch to its
utmost limit the venatic instincts of the fowler.

Let us now attempt to describe a day's bustard-driving on scientific
lines. The district having being selected, it is advisable to send out
the night before a trustworthy scout who will sleep at the _cortijo_ and
be abroad with the dawn in order to locate precisely the various
_bandadas_, or troops of bustard, in the neighbourhood. The
shooting-party (three or four guns for choice, but in no case to exceed
six[44]) follow in the morning--riding, as a rule, to the rendezvous;
though should there be a high-road available it is sometimes convenient
to drive (or nowadays even to motor), having in that case sent the
saddle-horses forward, along with the scout, on the previous day.

Arrived at the _cortijo_, the scout brings in his report, and at once
guns and drivers, all mounted, proceed towards the nearest of the marked
_bandadas_. Not only are the distances to be covered so great as to
render riding a necessity, but the use of horses has this further
advantage that bustard evince less fear of mounted men and thus permit
of nearer approach. The drivers should number three--the centre to flush
the birds, two flankers to gallop at top speed in any direction should
the game diverge from the required course or attempt to break out

Ten minutes' ride and we are within view of our first _bandada_ still a
mile away. They may be feeding on some broad slope, resting on the crest
of a ridge, or dawdling on a level plain; but wherever the game may
be--whatever the strategic value of their position--at least the
decision of our own tactics must be clinched at once. No long lingering
with futile discussion, no hesitation, or continued spying with the
glass is permissible. Such follies instil instant suspicion into the
astute brains on yonder hill, and the honours of the first round pass to
the enemy.

For this reason it is imperative to appoint one leader vested with
supreme authority, and whose directions all must obey instantly and

Needless to say, that leader must possess a thorough knowledge both of
the habits of bustard and the lie of a country--along with the rather
rare faculty of diagnosing at a glance its "advantages," its dangers,
and its salient points over some half-league of space. None too common
an attribute that, where all the wide prospect is grey or green, varying
according to ever-changing lights, and the downlands so gently graded as
occasionally to deceive the very elect. Much of the bustard-country
appears all but flat, so slight are its folds and undulations; while
even the more favouring regions are rarely so boldly contoured as
Salisbury Plain. The leader must combine some of the qualities of a
field-marshal with the skill of a deer-stalker, and a bit of red-Indian
sleuth thrown in. Luckily, such masters of the craft are not entirely
lacking to us.

The thoughts revolving in the leader's mind during his brief survey
follow these general lines: First, which is (_a_) the favourite and
(_b_) the most favourable line of flight of those bustards when
disturbed; secondly, where can guns best be placed athwart that line;
thirdly, how can the guns reach these points unseen? A condition
precedent to success is that the firing-line shall be drawn around the
bustards fairly close up, yet without their knowledge. Now with
wild-game in open country devoid of fences, hollows, or covert of any
description that problem presents initial difficulties that may well
appear insuperable. But they are rarely quite so. It is here that the
fieldcraft of the leader comes in. He has detected some slight fold that
will shelter horsemen up to a given point, and beyond that, screen a
crouching figure to within 300 yards of the unconscious _bandada_.
Rarely do watercourses or valleys of sufficient depth lend a welcome
aid; recourse must usually be had to the reverse slope of the hill
whereon the bustards happen to be. Without a halt, the party ride round
till out of sight. At the farthest safe advance, the guns dismount and
proceed to spread themselves out--so far as possible in a
semicircle--around the focal point.[45] At 80 yards apart, each lies
prone on earth, utilising such shelter (if any) as may exist on the
naked decline--say skeleton thistles, a tuft of wild asparagus, or on
rare occasion some natural bank or tiny rain-scoop.

[Illustration: GREAT BUSTARD--YOUNG.





[See Chapter on "Bird-life," _infra._]]

Having now succeeded in placing his guns unseen and within a fatal
radius, the leader may congratulate himself that his main object has
been achieved. On the nearness of the line to the game, and on his
correct diagnosis of the bustards' flight depends the issue.

[It may be added that bustard are occasionally found in situations that
offer no reasonable hope of a successful drive. It may then (should no
others be known within the radius of action) become advisable gently to
"move" the inexpugnable troop; remembering that once these birds realise
that they are being "driven," the likelihood of subsequently putting
them over the guns has enormously decreased. There accrues an incidental
advantage in this operation, for after "moving" them to more favouring
ground, it will not be necessary to line-up the guns quite so near as is
usually essential to success. For bustards possess so strong an
attachment to their _querencias_, or individual haunts, that they may be
relied upon, on being disturbed a second time, to wing a course more or
less in the direction of their original position. We give a specific
instance of this later.

Each pack of bustard has its own _querencia_, and will be found at
certain hours to frequent certain places. This local knowledge, if
obtainable, saves infinite time and vast distances traversed in search
of game whose approximate positions, after all, may thus be ascertained

       *       *       *       *       *

Now we have placed our guns in line and within that short distance of
the unsuspecting game that all but assures a certain shot. We cannot,
let us confess, recall many moments in life of more tense excitement
than those spent thus, lying prone on the gentle slope listening with
every sense on stretch for the cries of the galloping beaters as in wild
career they urge the huge birds towards a fatal course. Before us rises
the curving ridge, its summit sharply defined against an azure
sky--azure but empty. Now the light air wafts to our ear the tumultuous
pulsations of giant wings, and five seconds later that erst empty ether
is crowded with two score huge forms. What a scene--and what commotion
as, realising the danger, each great bird with strong and laboured
wing-stroke swerves aside. One enormous _barbon_ directly overhead
receives first attention; a second, full broadside, presents no more
difficulty, and ere the double thuds behind have attested the result, we
realise that a third, shying off from our neighbour, is also "our meat."
This has proved one of our luckier drives, for the _bandada_, splitting
up on the centre, offered chances to both flanks of the blockading
line--chances which are not always fully exploited.


We have stated, earlier in this chapter, that among the various
component factors in a bustard-drive the actual shot is of minor
importance. That is so; yet truly remarkable is the frequency with which
good shots constantly miss the easiest of chances at these great birds.
Precisely similar failures occur with wild-geese, with swans--indeed
with all big birds whose wing-action is deliberate and slow. Tardy
strokes deceive the eye, and the great bulk of the bustard accentuates
the deception--it seems impossible to miss them, a fatal error. As the
Spanish drivers put it: "Se les llenaron el ojo de carne," literally,
"the bustards had filled your eye with meat"--the hapless marksmen saw
everything bustard! Yet geese with their 40 strokes fly past ducks at
120, and the bustard's apparently leisured movement carries him in full
career as fast as whirring grouse with 200 revolutions to the minute. To
kill bustard treat them on the same basis as the smaller game that
appears faster but is not.

Bustards being soft-plumaged are not hard to kill. As compared with such
ironclads as wild-geese, they are singularly easily killed, and with
AAA shot may be dropped stone-dead at 80 and even at 100 yards. A pair
of guns may thus profitably be brought into action.

Bustards seldom run, but they walk very fast, especially when alarmed.
Between the inception of a drive and the moment of flushing we have
known them to cover half a mile, and many drives fail owing to game
having completely altered its original position. Instances have occurred
of bustards walking over the dividing ridge, to the amazement of the
prostrate sportsmen on the hither slope. Strange to say, when winged
they do not make off, but remain where they have fallen, and an old male
will usually show fight. Of course if left alone and out of sight a
winged bustard will travel far.

In weight cock-bustard vary from, say, 20 to 22 lbs. in autumn, up to 28
to 30 lbs. in April. The biggest old males in spring reach 33 and 34
lbs., and one we presented to the National Collection at South
Kensington scaled 37 lbs. The breast-bone of these big birds is usually
quite bare, a horny callosity, owing to friction with the ground while
squatting, and the heads and necks of old males usually exhibit gaps in
their gorgeous spring-plumage--indicative of severe encounters among
themselves. Hen-bustard seldom exceed 15 lbs. at any season.

Bustard are usually found in troops varying from half-a-dozen birds to
as many as 50 or 60, and in September we have seen 200 together.

Bustard-shooting--by which we mean legitimate driving during the winter
months, September to April--is necessarily uncertain in results. Some
days birds may not even be seen, though this is unusual, while on others
many big bands may be met with. Hence it is difficult to put down an
average, though we roughly estimate a bird a gun as an excellent day's
work. A not unusual bag for six guns will be about eight head; but we
have a note of two days' shooting in April (in two consecutive years)
when a party of eight guns, all well-known shots, secured 21 and 22
bustard respectively, together with a single lesser bustard on each day.
This was on lands between Alcantarillas and Las Cabezas, but it is fair
to add that the ground had been carefully preserved by the owner and the
operation organised regardless of expense.

A minor difficulty inherent to this pursuit is to select the precise
psychological moment to spring up to shooting-position. This indeed is a
feature common to most forms of wild-shooting--such as duck-flighting,
driving geese or even snipe; in fact there is hardly a really wild
creature that can be dealt with from a comfortable position erect on
one's legs. Imagine partridge-shooters at home, instead of standing
comfortably protected by hedge or butt, being told to hide themselves on
a wet plough or bare stubble. Here, in Spain, it may also be necessary
to conceal the gun under one's right side (to avoid sun-glints), and
that also loses a moment.


All one's care and elaborate strategy is ofttimes nullified through the
blunders of a novice. Some men have no more sense of concealment than
that fabled ostrich which is said to hide its head in the sand (which it
doesn't); others can't keep still. These are for ever poking their heads
up and down or--worse still--trying to see what is occurring in front.
We may conclude this chapter with a hint or two to new hands.

Never move from your prone position till the bustard are in shot, and
after that, not till you are sure the whole operation is complete. There
may yet be other birds enclosed though you do not know it.

Never claim to have wounded a bustard merely because it passed so near
and offered so easy a shot that you can't believe you missed it. You did
miss it or it would be lying dead behind.

All the same keep one eye on any bird you have fired at so long as it
remains in view. Bustards shot through the lungs will sometimes fly half
a mile and then drop dead.

Wear clothes suited, more or less, to environment--_greenish_, we
suggest, for choice--but remember that immobility is tenfold more
important than colour. A pure white object that is quiescent is
overlooked, where a clod of turf that _moves_ attracts instant

In spring, when bustards gorge on green food, gralloch your victims at
once, otherwise the half-digested mass in the crop quickly decomposes
and destroys the meat.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is an example of an error in judgment that practically amounted to
a blunder. Before our well-concealed line stood a grand pack, between
thirty and forty bustard beautifully "horseshoed," and quite unconscious
thereof. Momentarily we expected their entry--right in our faces! At
that critical moment there appeared, wide on the right flank and
actually behind us, three huge old _barbones_ directing a course that
would bring them along close in rear of our line. No. 4 gun, on extreme
right, properly allowed this trio to pass; not so No. 3. But the
culprit, on rising to fire, had the chagrin to realise (too late) his
error. The whole superb army-corps in front were at that very moment
sweeping forward direct on the centre of our line! In an instant they
took it in, swerved majestically to the left, and escaped scot-free.
That No. 3 had secured a right-and-left at the adventitious trio in no
sort of way exculpated his mistake.



The following illustrates in outline a day's bustard-shooting and
incidentally shows how strongly haunted these birds are, each pack to
its own particular locality.

On reaching our point (a seventeen-kilometres' drive), the scouts sent
out the day before reported three bands numbering roughly forty, forty,
and sixteen--in all nearly a hundred birds. The nearest lot was to the
west. These we found easily, and B. F. B. got a brace, right-and-left,
without incident.

Riding back eastwards, the second pack had moved, but we shortly
descried the third, in two divisions, a mile away. It being noon, the
bustards were mostly lying down or standing drowsily, and we halted for
lunch before commencing the operation.

During the afternoon we drove this pack three times, securing a brace on
first and third drives, while on the second the birds broke out to the

Now bustards are, in Spanish phrase, _muy querenciosos_, _i.e._ attached
to their own particular terrain; and as in these three drives we had
pushed them far beyond their much-loved limit, they were now restless
and anxious to return.

Already before our guns had reached their posts for a fourth drive,
seven great bustards were seen on the wing, and a few minutes later the
remaining thirty took flight, voluntarily, the whole phalanx shaping
their course directly towards us. The outmost gun was still moving
forward to his post under the crest of the hill, and the pack, seeing
him, swerved across our line below, and (these guns luckily having seen
what was passing and taken cover) thus lost another brace of their

The bustards shot to-day (January 16), though all full-grown males, only
weighed from 25-1/2 to 26-1/2 lbs. apiece. Two months later they would
have averaged over 30 lbs., the increased weight being largely due to
the abundant feed in spring, but possibly more to the solid distention
of the neck.[46]

This wet season (1908) the grass on the _manchones_, or fallows, was
rank and luxuriant, nearly knee-deep in close vegetation--more like
April than January. Already these bustards were showing signs of the
chestnut neck, and all had acquired their whiskers. The following winter
(1909) was dry and not a scrap of vegetation on the fallows. Even in
February they were absolutely naked and the cattle being fed on broken
straw in the byres.

The quill-feathers are pale-grey or ash-colour, only deepening into a
darker shade towards the tips, and that only on the first two or three
feathers. The shafts are white, secondaries black, and bastard-wing
lavender-white, slightly tipped with a darker shade.

In _Wild Spain_ will be found described two methods by which the great
bustard may be secured: (A) by a single gun riding quite alone; and (B)
by two guns working jointly, one taking the chance of a drive, the other
outmanoeuvring the game as in plan (A). We here add a third plan which
has occasionally stood us (when alone) in good stead.

On finding bustard on a suitable hill, leave your man to ride slowly to
and fro attracting the attention of the game till you have had time, by
hard running, to gain the reverse slope. The attendant then rides
forward, the whole operation being so punctually timed that you reach
the crest of the ridge at the same moment as the walking bustards have
arrived within shot thereof. Needless to add, this involves, besides
hard work, a considerable degree of luck, yet on several occasions we
have secured as many as four birds a day by this means.

       *       *       *       *       *


The great bustard, one imagines, has few enemies except man, but the
following incident shows they are not entirely exempt from extraneous
dangers. In October, some years ago, the writer purposed spending a
couple of nights at a distant marsh in order to see whether any snipe
had yet come in. Our course led us through good bustard-country, and by
an early start I had hoped to exploit this in passing. Hardly had we
entered upon the corn-lands than we espied fifteen bustard, a
quarter-mile away on the right. The rough bridle-track being worn
slightly hollow and no better cover appearing, I decided to "flatten" on
the spot, sending my two men to ride round beyond the game, which, being
in a dip, was now below my range of sight. In due course the bustards
appeared, winging directly towards me, but alighting in front when
already almost in shot. Feeling practically certain of them now, since I
could hear the shouts of the beaters beyond, I raised myself slightly,
only to see, to my utter chagrin, the bustards flying off in
diametrically the opposite direction while simultaneously a hissing
sound from behind and overhead caused me to glance upwards. A black
object hurtling earthward through space, shot diagonally past me--this I
mistook as merely a peregrine pursuing some hare that had been disturbed
by the beaters. But on hastening forward over the ridge, I perceived one
of the beaters riding up with a dead bustard across his saddle--a
female, with a great gaping gash in her side. The beaters reported that
just as they flushed the bustard a second time an eagle had swept down
upon them, knocked down this one, and sent the rest, scattered in wild
disorder, over their heads. Paco had then galloped up to within a few
yards before the eagle reluctantly abandoned its prize and sailed aloft.
Continuing our interrupted journey, half a mile ahead another pack of
bustard was descried, and while rapidly surveying the situation, yet
another lot appeared on wing, flying from the right. These last, we
instantly concluded both from their direction and also by the curiously
unsettled style of their flight, were a part of the band which had
recently been attacked by the eagle. Under such circumstances I realised
that (though I was mounted and in full view) they might yet pass within
shot, so, jumping from the horse, I fired at the nearest old
cock-bustard and distinctly saw blood spirt from his snow-white breast.
He flew slowly away with ever lowering flight, finally disappearing over
a crest close by the scene of our first drive. Confident of gathering
him, we rode back, and on gaining the ridge witnessed this amazing
spectacle. In the hollow, 300 yards away, was a well with the usual
cross-bar and pulley for drawing water, and on the cross-bar sat an
eagle. Below on the ground stood the wounded bustard, facing-up to a
second great eagle, which kept flapping around him, apparently reluctant
to attack so huge a bird on the ground and in its then aggressive
attitude, and endeavouring to force it to fly.

So absorbed were both eagles on their quarry that I rode up unnoticed to
within 100 yards, and was making ready to fire when the two great birds
rose, that from the cross-bar flying away, while the other, not content
to resign his prize, circled overhead. In hope that he might descend I
concealed myself behind the well, always keeping one eye on the wounded
bustard, but presently the eagle had become a mere speck in the heavens.
The bustard all this time had remained standing close by, but on my
approach it rose quite strongly on wing, and had I not been loaded,
might yet have escaped.


The aggressors were imperial eagles, and in their second attack had no
doubt realised that the quarry was already wounded. The first victim had
been knocked down, stone-dead, when absolutely sound and strong.

During summer these birds practically subsist on grasshoppers,
especially those in the heavy wingless stage known as _Cigarras
panzonas_. These disappear after July, being replaced by smaller and
more active varieties, which are equally relished. Once the females
commence laying among the spring corn (in April), the cock-bustards
assemble in widower packs (_toradas_) on the fallows, and especially on
_marismas_ adjacent to corn-land. By September both sexes, with the
young, reunite on the stubbles, where we have seen as many as 200

It is in April that the old _barbones_ attain their full glory and
pride of sexual estate--resplendent in fierce whiskers and gorgeous
chestnut ruffs all distended with the seasonal condition. Courtship
begins in March, when the weird eccentric performances of the males,
flashing alternately white and rich orange against their green
environment, lend a characteristic touch to the vernal _vegas_--white
specks that appear and disappear as the lovelorn monsters revolve and
display, somewhat in the frenzied style of the blackcock on our own
northern moorlands. _Hechando la rueda_ the Spanish call it, as an old
_barbon_ majestically struts around turning himself, as it were, inside
out before an assembled harem that, to all appearance, takes no manner
of interest in his fantastic performance--perhaps the gentler sex
dissemble their depth of feeling? Then occur ferocious duels between
rival paladins. Long sustained are these and conspicuous afar, albeit
not very deadly. No life-blood may flow, but feathers fly ere the point
of honour is settled and the victor left in proud possession.

[Illustration: "HECHANDO LA RUEDA"]

These combats occur chiefly at break of day while tall herbage yet
remains soaked by nocturnal dews, and it occasionally happens that some
luckless champion, damaged and bedraggled, and with plumage saturated
through and through, when thus encountered, is found unable to fly and
so captured. Several such instances came under our notice years ago
and--rare though they may be--misled us in _Wild Spain_ to conclude that
the incapacity arose from a spring-moult--similar to that of wild-geese
and of some ducks. That, however, was an error. The loss of flight-power
arises, as stated, from the damaged and dew-saturated state of the
primaries, as is concisely set forth in a letter from our friend D. José
Pan Elberto as follows:--

     Many persons undoubtedly believe (owing to bustards being captured
     in spring unable to fly) that these birds moult all their quills at
     once. That is not the case; but since in spring, when the
     male-bustards engage in continuous fighting, the corn-growth is
     already quite tall, and in the early mornings all vegetation is
     saturated with night-dews, it occasionally happens that a bustard
     may be met with incapable by this cause of taking wing--that is,
     that some of the flight-feathers are lost or broken and all
     dew-soaked (_rociadas_). The bustard moults gradually and never
     loses the power of flight.

[Illustration: Great Bustard "SHEWING-OFF"--FROM LIFE.






While never attaining the size of wild birds, yet bustards thrive well
in captivity--always assuming that they have been caught young. Old
birds brought home wounded never survive twenty-four hours, dying not
from the wound (which may be insignificant) but from _barinchin_, which
may be translated chagrin or a broken heart. Young bustards reared thus
become extremely tame, coming to call and feeding from the hand, though
when old the males are apt to grow vicious in spring, attacking savagely
children, dogs, and even women, especially those whom they see to be
afraid.[47] Tame as they are, they are always subject to strange alarms,
seemingly causeless. Suddenly they raise their wings, draw in their
heads, and dance around, jumping in air, and ever intently regarding the
heavens--sometimes dashing off under cover of bushes. One may connect
this exhibition with some speck in the sky, some passing eagle, more
often no motive is discernible. Bustard-chicks emit a plaintive whistle
so precisely similar to that of the kites that (when hatched out under a
domestic hen) the foster-mother has been so terrified as to desert her
brood. When adult, bustards are usually quite silent, save for a
grunting noise in spring--that is, in captivity. But on a hot day we
have heard the old males, when passing on a drive, utter panting
sounds, and (as already mentioned) a winged _barbon_ will turn to attack
with a sort of gruff bark--wuff, wuff--as his captor approaches.

So retentive is their memory that each year as May comes round our tame
bustards keep constantly on the look-out for the first cart-load of
green cut grass brought into the stable-yard for the horses. They even
follow it right into the loose-box where it is stored, in order to feast
on the grasshoppers it conceals, climbing all over the mountain of
grass, but never scratching as hens or pheasants would do.


The little bustard may fairly claim the proud distinction that it alone
of all the game-birds on earth can utterly scorn and set at naught every
artifice of the fowler--modern methods and up-to-date appliances all
included. Here in Spain, though the bird itself is abundant enough (and
its flesh delicate and delicious), it so entirely defies every set
system of pursuit that no one nowadays attempts its capture. Practically
none are killed save merely by some chance or accidental encounter.

True, during the fiery noontides of July and August even the little
bustard enjoys a siesta and may then be shot. It will, in fact, "lie
close" before pointers and cackle like a cock-grouse as it rises from
those desolate _dehesas_ which form its home--vast stretches of rolling
veld where asphodel, palmetto, and giant thistles grow rampant as far as
eye can reach. But that scarce comes within our category of sport, since
a solar heat that can (even temporarily) tame a _sisón_ is quite likely
to finish off a Briton for good and all. And with the advent of autumn
and a relatively endurable temperature, in a moment the _sisón_ becomes
impossibly wild. Any idea of direct approach is simply out of the
question, but beyond that, this astute fowl has elaborated a
scheme--indeed a series of schemes--that nullifies even that one
remaining resource of baffled humanity, "driving." You may surround his
company, "horse-shoe" them with hidden guns--do what you will, not a
single _sisón_ will come in to the firing-line. You cannot diagnose
beforehand his probable line of flight, for he has none, nor can you
influence its subsequent direction. For the little bustard shuts off all
negotiation at its initiation by springing vertically in air, soaring
far above gunshot, and there indulging in fantastic aerial evolutions
more in the style of wigeon or other wildfowl than of a true game-bird
as he is. Thus from that celestial altitude he spies out the country and
all terrestrial dangers, finally disappearing afar amidst the wastes of
atmospheric space. Frequently we have noticed the high-flying band,
after, say, twenty minutes of such display of wing-power, descend
directly to their original position at a safe interval after the drivers
had passed forward thereof! Thus do they scorn our efforts and add
insult to injury.

[Illustration: LITTLE BUSTARD

Summer plumage.]

In practice no _sisónes_ whatever are killed in set drives, and for
twenty years we have abandoned the attempt as impossible. They
nevertheless--alike with every other fowl of the air--must, by
occasional mischance, fly into danger, and at such times, owing to their
habit of flying in massed formation, a heavy toll may be levied at a
single shot by a gunner who is alert to exploit the happy event. We have
ourselves, in this casual way, dropped from five to eight _sisónes_ with
the double charge.

Though frequenting the same open terrain as their big cousins, the
_sisónes_ distinctly prefer the rough stretches of palmetto, thistles,
and other rank herbage to corn-land proper--in short, they prefer to sit
where they can never be seen on the ground. Conspicuous as their white
plumage and resonant wing-rattle makes them in air, we can hardly recall
a dozen instances of having detected a pack of little bustard at
rest--and then merely in quite accidental and exceptional
circumstances. And even then (as indicated) the knowledge of their
precise position has seldom availed to their undoing.

By April the males have assumed a splendidly handsome breeding-dress.
The neck, swollen out like a jargonelle pear, is clad in rich
velvet-black, the long plumes behind glossy and hackle-like, and adorned
with a double gorget of white. All this finery is lost by August.
Thenceforward the sexes are alike save for the larger size and brighter
orange of the males, the females being smaller and yellower. They are
strictly monogamous, yet the males "show-off" in the same fantastic way
as great bustard and blackcock. About mid-May the female lays four
(rarely five) glossy olive-green eggs in the thick covert of thistles or

In summer the food of the little bustard consists of snails and small
grasshoppers, and on the table they are excellent, the breast being
large and prominent and displaying both dark and white flesh--the
latter, however, being confined to the legs.





The flamingo stands in a class apart. Allied to no other
bird-form--hardly so much as related--it may be regarded almost as a
separate act of creation. Its nesting habits, and the method by which a
bird of such abnormal build could incubate its eggs, formed for
generations a "vexed question" in bird-life. The story of the efforts
made by British naturalists to solve the problem ranks among the
classics of ornithology. The marismas of Guadalquivir were early known
to be one of the few European _incunabula_ of the flamingo; but their
vast extent--"as big as our eastern counties," Howard Saunders
wrote--and the irregularity of the seasons (since flamingoes only remain
to nest in the wettest years) combined to frustrate exploration. First
in the field was Lord Lilford--as early as 1856; and both during that
and the two succeeding decades he and Saunders (who appeared on the
scene in 1864) undertook repeated journeys--all in vain. The record of
these makes splendid reading, and will be found as follows:--

Lord Lilford, "On the Breeding of the Flamingo in Spain," _Proceedings
Zoological Society of London_, 1880, pp. 446-50; Howard Saunders,
_ibid._, 1869, and the same authority in the _Ibis_, 1871, pp. 394 _et

The late Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, who visited Spain in May 1879,
likewise failed to reach the nesting spot--apparently through the usual
cause, not going far enough--though a few eggs were found scattered on
the wet mud of the marisma. (Recorded by Lord Lilford as above.)

Thus the question remained unsettled till 1883, when a favouring season
enabled the present authors to succeed where greater ornithologists had
striven in vain.


A venerable apologue attaches to the nesting habit of the flamingo.
Owing to the length of its legs, it was assumed that the bird could not
incubate in the ordinary manner of birds, and that, therefore, it stood
astraddle on a nest built up to the requisite height--a combination of
unproved assumption with inconsequential deduction. 'Twere ungracious to
be wise after the event, yet, in fact, this fable passed current as
"Natural History" for precisely two centuries--from 1683, when Dampier
so described the nesting of flamingoes on the Cape de Verde Islands,[48]
till 1883, when the present authors had opportunity of observing a
flamingo-colony in southern Spain.

Flamingoes do not nest every year in the Spanish marismas. Their doing
so depends on the season, and only in very wet years is the attempt
made. Rarely, even then, are young hatched off, so persistently are the
wastes raided by egg-lifters, who sweep up by wholesale every edible
thing, and to whom a "Flamingo City," with its hundreds of big eggs all
massed together--a boat-load for the gathering--represents an El Dorado.
As early as 1872 eggs were brought to us--taken by our own marshmen on
May 24--but it was not till 1883 that we enjoyed seeing an occupied
nest-colony ourselves.

More than a quarter-century has sped since then, yet we cannot do better
than substantially transcribe the narrative as recorded in _Wild Spain_.

During the month of April we searched the marismas systematically for
the nesting-places of flamingoes, but, though exploring large
areas--riding many leagues in all directions through mud and water
varying from a few inches to full three feet in depth--yet no sign of
nests was then encountered. Flamingoes there were in thousands, together
with a wealth of aquatic bird-life that we will not stop here to
describe. But the water was still too deep, the mud-flats and new-born
islets not yet sufficiently dried for purposes of nidification. The only
species that actually commenced to lay in April were the coots, purple
herons, peewits, Kentish plovers, stilts, redshanks, and a few more.

April was clearly too early, and the writer lost nearly a week through
an attack of ague, brought on by constant splashing about in
comparatively cold water while a fierce sun always beat down on one's
head. In May the luck improved. Far away to the eastward flamingoes had
always been most numerous, and once or twice we observed (early in May)
signs that resembled the first rude beginnings of architecture, and
encouraged us to persevere in what had begun to appear an almost
hopeless quest.

_May 9_ (1883).--The effects of dawn over the vast desolations of the
marisma were specially lovely this morning. Before sunrise the distant
peaks of the Serranía de Ronda (seventy miles away) lay flooded in a
blood-red light, and appearing quite twice their usual height. Half an
hour later the mountains sank back in a golden glow, and long before
noon had utterly vanished in quivering heat-haze and the atmospheric
fantasies of infinite space. Amidst chaotic confusion of mirage effects
we rode out across the wilderness: at first over dry mud-flats sparsely
carpeted with dwarf scrub of marsh plants, or in places bare and naked,
the sun-scorched surface cracked into rhomboids and parallelograms, and
honeycombed with yawning cattle-tracks made long ago when the mud was
moist and plastic; then through shallow marsh and stagnant waters
gradually deepening. Here from a patch of rush hard by sprang three
hinds with their fawns and splashed away through the shallows, their
russet pelts gleaming in the early sunlight. Gradually the water
deepened; "mucha agua, mucho fango!" groaned our companion, Felipe; but
this morning we meant 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 strewn with
avocets' eggs, while nests of stilts, redshanks, pratincoles, and many
more lay scattered around.


During this day we discovered two nests of the slender-billed gull
(_Larus gelastes_), not previously known to breed in Spain; also, we
then believed, those of the Mediterranean black-headed gull (_L.
melanocephalus_), though the latter were afterwards ascribed by
oological experts (perhaps correctly) to the gull-billed tern (_Sterna
anglica_), a species whose eggs we also found by the dozen.

The immense aggregations of flamingoes which, in wet seasons, throng the
middle marismas can scarce be described. Our bird-islets lay so remote
from the low-lying shores that no land whatever was in sight; but the
desolate horizon that surrounded them was adorned by an almost unbroken
line of pink and white that separated sea and sky over the greater part
of the circle. On examining the different herds narrowly through
binoculars, an obvious dissimilarity was discovered in the appearance of
certain groups. One or two in particular seemed so much denser than the
others; the narrow white line looked three times as thick, and in the
centre gave the idea that the birds were literally piled upon each
other. Felipe suggested that these flamingoes must be at their
_pajeréra_, or breeding-place, and after a long wet ride we found that
this was the case. The water was very deep, the bottom clinging mud; at
intervals 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; but the labours undergone during these aquatic rides
eventuated in the loss of one fine mule, a powerful beast worth £60.


On approach, the cause of the peculiar appearance of the flamingo city
from a distance became clearly discernible. Hundreds of birds were
sitting down on a low mud-island, hundreds more were standing erect
thereon, while others stood in the water alongside. 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. The
nests had little or no height above the dead-level mud--some were raised
an inch or two, a few might reach four or five inches in height, but the
majority were merely circular bulwarks of mud barely raised above the
general level, and bearing the impression of the bird's legs distinctly
marked upon the periphery. The general aspect of the plateau might be
likened to 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, had probably supplied the birds with building material.


Scattered round the main colony were many 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
isolated nests stood some eight inches above water-level, and as the
depth exceeded a foot, their total height would be two feet or
thereabouts, and their width across the hollowed top, some fifteen
inches. None of the nests as yet contained eggs, and though we returned
to the _pajeréra_ on the latest day we were in its neighbourhood (May
11), they still remained empty. On both occasions many hundreds of
flamingoes were sitting on the nests, and on the 11th we enjoyed
excellent views at close quarters. Linked arm-in-arm with Felipe, and
crouching low on the water to look as little human as possible, we had
approached within seventy yards before the sentries first showed signs
of alarm; and at that distance, with binoculars, observed the sitting
flamingoes as distinctly as one need wish. The long red legs doubled
under their bodies, the knees projecting slightly beyond the tail, and
the graceful necks neatly curled away among their back feathers like a
sitting swan, some heads resting on the breasts--all these points were
unmistakable. Indeed, as regards the disposition of the legs in an
incubating flamingo, no other attitude was possible since, in the great
majority of cases, the nests were barely raised above the level of the
mud-plateau. To sit _astride_ on a _flat_ surface is out of the

Inexplicable it seems that the flamingo, a bird that spends its life
half knee-deep in water, should so long delay the period of incubation.
For long ere eggs could be hatched, and young reared, the full summer
heats of June and July would already have set in, water would have
utterly disappeared, and the flamingoes be left stranded in a scorching
desert of sun-baked mud.


Being unable ourselves to return to the marisma, we sent Felipe back on
May 26, when he obtained eggs--long, white, and chalky, some specimens
extremely rugged. Two is the number laid in each nest. In 1872 we had
obtained six eggs taken on May 24, which may therefore, probably, be
taken as the average date of laying. There remains, nevertheless, the
bare possibility that eggs had been laid before our visit on May 9, but
swept up meanwhile by egg-raiders.

The flamingo city "in being" above described was the first seen by
ornithologists, and the observations we were enabled to make settled at
last the position and mode of incubation of the flamingo.[49]

Science is impersonal, the impulsion of a naturalist springs from
devotion to his subject, and from no extrinsic motive--such as personal
kudos. Nevertheless, we make this categoric claim for ourselves simply
because the credit, _quantum valeat_, has since been (not claimed
straight away, but rather) insinuated on behalf of others who didn't
earn it--analogous with the case of Dr. Cook and the North Pole.

Where do these thousands of Spanish flamingoes breed, and how do they
maintain their numbers, when Spain, three years out of five, is _too
dry_ for nesting purposes? The only obvious answer is, Africa. And,
though incapable yet of direct proof, that answer is clearly correct.
For flamingoes are essentially denizens of the tropic zone. The few that
ever overlap into southern Europe are but a fraction of their swarming
millions farther south. During our own expeditions into British East
Africa, we found flamingoes in vast abundance on all the equatorial
lakes we visited--Baringo, Nakuru, Elmenteita, Naivasha, and,
especially, Lake Hannington, where, during past ages, they have so
polluted the foreshores as to preclude human occupation. These were the
same flamingoes, a few of which "slop over" into Europe; we shot two
specimens with the rifle in Nakuru to prove that.[50]

Flamingoes are not migratory in an ordinary sense--birds born on the
equator seldom are. Their movements have no seasonal character, but
depend on the rainfall and the varying condition of the lagoons at
different points within their range. Here, in Spain, we see them coming
and going, to and fro, at all seasons according to the state of the
marisma--and a striking colour-study they present when pink battalions
contrast with dark-green pine beneath and set off by deepest azure

In 1907 flamingoes attempted to establish a nesting-colony at a spot
called Las Albacias in the marisma of Hinojos. A mass of nests was
already half built, then suddenly abandoned. "If the shadow of a cloud
passes over them, they forsake," say the herdsmen of the wilderness.


Quantities of drift grass and weed are always found floating where a
herd has been feeding, which at first led us to suppose that their food
consisted of water-plants (as with geese), but that is not the case.
The floating grasses are only incidentally uprooted by the birds while
delving in the mud. The Spanish marshmen say flamingoes "live on mud,"
and truly an examination of their crops appears to confirm this. But the
mud is only taken in because of the masses of minute creatures
(_animalculae_) which it contains, and which form the food of the
flamingo. What precisely these living atoms are would require both a
microscopical examination and a knowledge of zoophites to determine. The
tongue of a flamingo is a thick, fleshy organ filling the whole cavity
of the mandibles, and furnished with a series of flexible bony spikes,
or hooks, nearly half an inch long and curving inwards. Flamingoes'
tongues are said to have formed, an epicurean dish in Roman days.
However that may be, we found them, on trial, quite uneatable--tough as
india-rubber; even our dogs refused the "delicacy." This bird's flesh is
dark-red and rank, quite uneatable.

In the New World the mystery of the nesting habits of the flamingo
(_Phoenicopterus ruber_) was solved just three years later, and in a
precisely similar sense.

[Illustration: HEAD OF FLAMINGO

Showing the spikes on tongue and lamellae on mandibles.

[The beak had to be forced open.]]

We will close this chapter with a reference to a recent and most
complete demonstration of our subject--that of our namesake, Mr. Frank
M. Chapman, of the American Museum, New York, in his _Camps and Cruises
of an Ornithologist_. Therein is set forth, in Chapter IV., the last
word on this topic. In America, as in Spain, the final solution of the
problem was only attained after years of patient effort and many
disappointments. With the thoroughness of thought and honesty of purpose
that marks our transatlantic progeny while treating of natural
phenomena, this book sets forth the life-history and domestic economy of
the flamingo, from egg to maturity, illustrated by a series of
photographs that are absolutely unique.[51] We conclude by quoting our
bird-friend's opening sentence: "There are larger birds than the
flamingo, and birds with more brilliant plumage, but no other large
bird is so brightly coloured, and no other brightly coloured bird is so
large. In brief, size and beauty of plume united reach their maximum
development in this remarkable bird, while the open nature of its haunts
and its gregarious habit seem specially designed to display its marked
characteristics of form and colour to the most striking advantage. When
to these superficial attractions is added the fact that little or
nothing has hitherto been known of its nesting habits, one may realise
the intense longing of a naturalist, not only to behold a flamingo
city--itself the most remarkable sight in the bird-world--but to lift
the veil through which the flamingo's home-life has been but dimly




It was during these aquatic rides in search of the nesting-places of the
flamingo that we first fell in with wild camels.

Vague yarns, more or less circumstantial, that such animals wandered
over the farther marismas, we remember as early as 1872. The thing,
however, had appeared too incredible for consideration--at any rate, we
gave it none. But in that spring of 1883 we one day found ourselves face
to face with two unmistakable camels. They stood gazing intently about
half a mile away--a huge, shaggy, hump-backed beast, accompanied by a
second not half its size. The pair wheeled and made off ere we had
approached within 400 yards, and something "game-like" in their style
prompted our first and last attempt at pursuit. The camels simply ran
away from us, splashing through slippery mud and water, two feet deep,
at double our horses' speed, and raising in their flight a tearing trail
of foam as of twin torpedo-boats.

Since then we have fallen in with camels on very many occasions, singly,
in twos and threes, or in herds of a dozen to twenty and upwards, old
and young together. It is, in fact, only necessary to ride far enough
into the marisma to make sure of seeing some of these extraordinary
monsters startling the desolate horizon, and silhouetted in incongruous
juxtaposition with ranks of rosy flamingoes and flotillas of swimming

The whole story of these wild camels and their origin has been narrated
in _Wild Spain_. Briefly summarised, the animals were introduced to
Spain in 1829 by the Marquis de Villafranca (House of Medina-Sidonia)
with the object of employing them in transport and agriculture, as they
are so commonly used on the opposite shores of Africa. But local
difficulties ensued--chiefly arising from the intense fear and
repugnance of horses towards camels, which resulted in numerous
accidents--and eventually the bactrians were set free in the marisma,
wherein they have since lived at large and bred under wholly wild
conditions for well-nigh a century.

We admit that a statement of the existence of wild camels in these
watery wildernesses of Spain--flooded during great part of the year--is
difficult to accept. The camel is inseparably associated with the most
arid deserts of earth, with sun-scorched Sahara, Arabia Petraea, and
waterless tropical regions. Its physical economy is expressly adapted
for such habitats--the huge padded feet and seven-chambered stomach that
will sustain it for days without drinking. Yet the reader was asked to
believe that this specialised desert-dweller had calmly accepted a
condition of life diametrically reversed, and not only lives, but breeds
and flourishes amidst knee-deep swamp.

At the period of which we write the camel was not known to exist on
earth in a wild state, and physical disabilities were alleged which
would have precluded such a possibility. During historic times it had
never been described save only as a beast of burden, the slave of
man--and a savage, intractable slave at that. A little later, however,
the Russian explorer, Préjevalsky, met with wild camels roaming over the
Kumtagh deserts of Turkestan, and in Tibet Sven Hedin has since shown
the two-humped camel to be one of the normal wild beasts of the Central
Asian table-lands.

Wild camels in Europe represented a considerable draft upon the
credulity of readers; and a chorus of ridicule was poured upon the
statement. Men who had "lived in Spain for years"--a foreign consul at
Seville, engineers employed in reclaiming marismas (somewhere else)--all
rushed into print to attest the absurdity of the idea. Limited
experience was mistaken for complete knowledge! Similar treatment was
accorded to our observation of pelicans in Denmark. Ornithologists of
Copenhagen insinuated we did not know pelicans from seagulls; yet the
Danish pelicans are as well known to the Jutlander fisher-folk as are
the Spanish camels to the herdsmen and fowlers of the marisma. Knowledge
is no monopoly of high places.

[Illustration: WILD CAMELS.]

The Spanish camels spend their lives exclusively in the open marisma,
pasturing on the _vetas_, or higher-lying areas, and passing from islet
to islet, though the intervening water be three feet deep. We have
watched them grazing on subaquatic herbage in the midst of what
appeared miles of open water; and, in fact, during wet winters there is
no dry land to be seen. Yet they never approach the adjacent dunes of
Doñana, though these would appear so tempting. By night, however, the
camels sometimes pass so near to our shooting-lodge that their scent,
when borne down-wind, has created panic among the horses, though the
stables are situate within an enclosed courtyard.


Antonio Trujillo, formerly head-keeper of the Coto Doñana, some years
ago chanced on a camel that was "bogged" in a quicksand (_nuclé_). These
places are dangerous, and it was not till six days later that he was
enabled, by bringing planks and ropes, to drag the poor beast to firm
land. All round the spot where the camel had laid he found every root,
and even the very earth, eaten away. Yet the animal when set free
appeared none the worse, for it strolled away quite unconcerned, and
shortly commenced to browse while still close by.

Young camels are born early in the year, about February, though whether
that is the exclusive period we have no means of knowing.

A curious incident occurred one winter day when we had ridden out into
the marisma expressly in search of camels. It was an intensely cold and
dry season, almost unprecedented for the severity of the frost. When
several leagues from anywhere, 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, after a straight-away run of five or
six miles over the sun-dried plain, we fairly rode bold Reynard down and
killed him.

Six months after the publication of _Wild Spain_ we received the
following letter from H.R.H. the late Phillippe, Comte de Paris, the
owner of the adjoining Coto del Rey:--

     _June 17, 1893._

     Having read with the greatest pleasure and interest your
     description of the wild camels, it struck me that you may
     appreciate a photograph taken from nature of one of these
     independent inhabitants of the shores of Guadalquivir. I found that
     one could only look at them from a distance, and therefore the
     enclosed photographs may be of interest. They were taken three
     months ago by my nephew, Prince Henry of Orleans. My keepers had in
     the early morning separated this single animal from the herd, but
     it escaped from them about Marilopez at noon, and when we met with
     him near the Laguna de la Madre, and about a mile from the Coto del
     Rey, we had only to give him a last gallop to catch him. These
     camels spend great part of the year on ground of which I am either
     the owner or the tenant, and I do my best to protect them from the
     terrible poachers coming from Trebujena. In order to be able to do
     this more effectually, I bought yesterday from the heirs of the
     landowners who turned them out some seventy years ago, I think, all
     the claims they can have on these animals.

We have recently been favoured by the present Comte de Paris with the
latest details respecting the camels. In a note dated August 1910,
H.R.H. writes:--

     For some time their numbers have been decreasing, and we no longer
     see great troops of them as we used to do eighteen years ago. The
     cause of their diminution is certainly the bitter war waged against
     them by poachers. The parts of the marisma frequented by the wild
     camels lie between the Coto del Rey on the north, the Coto Doñana
     on the west, and the Guadalquivir on the south-east. The long deep
     channels of La Madre, however, interfere with their reaching the
     Coto Doñana, and they chiefly graze in the marismas of Hinojos and
     Almonte. The plan pursued by the poachers is as follows:--Coming
     down from some of the little villages, they cross the river in
     small flat-bottomed boats in which they can creep along the shores
     to points where they have seen either the spoor or the animals
     themselves during the day. Then drawing near to the camels, under
     cover of the waning light, they are able to kill one or sometimes
     two, which they skin and disembowel on the spot. The flesh is cut
     up into pieces, sewn up in the skin, and, on returning to the
     riverbank, secreted beneath the flat bottom-boards of the boat,
     thereby evading detection by Civil Guards and douaniers. The men
     then sail down the river and sell the meat at San Lucar as venison.

     When in the marisma in 1892 I met one day a troop of forty
     animals--some old males, their huge bodies covered with thick hair
     like blankets; there were also females followed by their
     young--fantastic of appearance, owing to the disproportionate
     length of their legs, but galloping and frisking around their
     mothers as they had done since birth.

     Next day my companion and I took lassoes; we encountered a huge old
     male, singly, which trotted and galloped round our horses,
     terrifying the poor beasts to such an extent that we could not come
     near the camel. At length after a fifty-minutes' chase, in crossing
     a part where the mud was soft and the surface much broken up by
     cattle coming to drink, we overtook him. Thanks to my horse having
     less fear than the other, I was presently able to throw a lasso
     around the camel, my companion hauling taut the rope to hold the
     prisoner fast. The great brute proved very active, defending
     himself with his immense flat feet, which he used as clubs, and,
     moreover, he bit, and the bite of a camel is venomous. Ultimately I
     succeeded in getting a second rope around him and dragging him to
     the ground, where he lay like the domestic camel. The photographs
     illustrate this episode.

     Old males frequently have the hair very ragged and scant,
     especially on hind-quarters, and on their knees are great
     callosities. The truly wild camels of the marisma are fast
     disappearing. A friend has furnished me with the approximate number
     now remaining absolutely wild, viz. fifteen or sixteen near La
     Macha fronting the Palace of Tisana, besides five enclosed in the
     Cerrado de Matas Gordas, near the Palacio del Rey, and belonging to
     Madame La Condesa de Paris.

     It was owing to the rapid decrease in their numbers, and in order
     to save them from extinction, that the Condesa had these
     enclosures, known as Matas Gordas, prepared. They contain excellent
     pasturage, besides some extent of brushwood; yet the enclosed
     camels do not flourish, nor have they ever bred. Big as the
     enclosures are, yet the area may be too restricted for them; or it
     may be the disturbance due to the presence of cattle and herdsmen
     (since the cerrados are let for grazing) that explains this
     failure; or possibly the camels resent being enclosed at all. At
     any rate the spectacle of troops of camels rushing wildly forward
     in all directions is passing away all too quickly, and soon nothing
     but the legend will remain.

     Truly it is melancholy that the wild camels should be allowed
     utterly to disappear, representing, as they do, so extraordinary a
     fact in zoological science.

Our friend Mr. William Garvey tells us that in the summer of 1907, while
returning from Villamanrique, crossing the dry marisma in his
automobile, he saw three camels. He drove towards them, and when at 500
or 600 yards, they turned and fled, he put on full speed (sixty miles an
hour), and within some ten minutes had all three camels completely
beaten, tongues hanging out, unable to go another yard!

This will be the first occasion when wild camels have been run down, in
an open desert, by a motor-car!

     _February 9, 1903._--This morning, shortly after daybreak, a big
     single bull camel passed my "hide" in the Lucio de las Nuevas
     within easy ball-shot. He was splashing through water about two
     feet deep overgrown with samphire bushes, and "roared" at
     intervals--a curious sort of ventriloquial "gurgle," followed by a
     bellow which I could still distinguish when he had passed quite two
     miles away. With the binoculars I distinguished at vast distance
     five other camels in the direction the single bull was taking.

Here we insert a note received from the co-author's brother, J. Crawhall

     Oh, yes! I remember that camel-day--it's never likely to die out of
     my memory, for never did I endure a worse experience nor a harder
     in all my sporting life. It promised to be a great duck-shoot on
     the famous "Laguna Grande"; but for me, at any rate, it began,
     continued, and ended in misery! At 3.30 A.M., on opening my eyes, I
     saw Bertie already silently astir--probably seeking quinine or
     other febrifuge, for we were "housed" (save the mark) in Clarita's
     _choza_, a lethal mud-and reed-thatched hut many a mile out in the
     marisma. Nothing whatever lies within sight--nothing bar desolation
     of mud and stagnant waters, reeds, samphire, and BIRDS, relieved at
     intervals by the occasional and far-away view of a steamer's
     funnel, navigating the Guadalquivír Sevillewards.

     Well, we arose, looked at what was intended for breakfast, and
     groped for our steeds. I was to ride an old polo-pony named
     _Bufalo_, an evil-tempered veteran with a long-spoilt "mouth" that
     ever resented the Spanish curb. Cold and empty we rode for two long
     hours in the dark, always following the leader since otherwise
     inevitable loss must ensue--splosh, splosh, through deep mud and
     deeper water, never stopping, always stumbling, slipping,
     slithering onwards. I feared it would never end; and, in fact, it
     never did--that is, the bog. For when I was finally told "Abajo"
     (which I understood to mean "get down"), and to squat in a miry
     place so much like the rest of the swamp that it didn't seem to
     matter much where it really was--well, it was then only 6 A.M. and
     horribly cold and desolate.

     [Illustration: WILD CAMELS OF THE MARISMA.




     An hour later the sun began to rise. I had not fired a shot--nor
     had any of us. As a duck-shoot it was a dismal failure. By eight
     o'clock the sun was quite hot, so I tried to find a stomach--for
     breakfast. Failed again; but drank some sherry, and then lay down
     till noon in decomposing and malodorous reed-mush and mud. Never a
     duck came near, so shifted my stye to an old dry ridge--apparently
     an antediluvian division between two equally noisome swamps. Here I
     tried to sleep, but that was no good, for a headache had set
     in--possibly the effects of sun and sherry combined! I felt the
     sweeping wind of a marsh-harrier who had found me too suddenly and
     was half a mile away ere I could get up to shoot.

     At four o'clock I signalled for _Bufalo_ to take me back to our
     hut, distant eight miles, the only guide being that morning's
     outward tracks.

     It was on this ride that there occurred the incident of the
     day--thrilling indeed had it not been for the headache that left me
     cheaper than cheap. Having traversed some three miles of mud and
     water, suddenly I saw ahead the "camels a-coming!"--eleven of them
     in line, the last a calf, and what a splash they made! Knowing how
     horses hate the smell and sight of camels, and _Bufalo_ being a
     rearing and uncomfortable beast at best, I felt perhaps unduly
     nervous. The camels were marching directly across my line of route
     and up-wind thereof. If only I could pass that intersecting point
     well before them, _Bufalo_, I hoped, might not catch the
     unwholesome scent. I tried all I could, but the mud was too sticky.
     The camel-corps came on, splashing, snorting, and striding at high
     speed. _Bufalo_ saw them quick enough, I can tell you--he stopped
     dead, gazed and snorted in terror, spun round pirouetting
     half-a-dozen times, reared, and would certainly have bolted but
     that he stood well over his fetlocks in mud and nigh up to the
     girths in water. I could not induce him to face them anyhow; but
     remember, please, that I was handicapped by the mass of
     accoutrements and luggage slung around both me and my mount, to
     wit:--Several empty bottles and bags, remains of lunch, some 500
     cartridges, three dozen ducks, a Paradox gun, waders, and brogues!


     Meantime the camels passed my front within 100 yards and then
     "rounded up." Having loaded both barrels with ball, I felt safer,
     and pushed _Bufalo_ forwards--to fifty yards. Then the thought
     occurred to me, "Do camels charge?" _Bufalo_ reared, twisted, and
     splashed about in sheer horror, and then--thank goodness--the
     corps, with a parting roar, or rather a chorus of vicious gurgling
     grunts, in clear resentment at my presence on the face of the
     water at all, turned and bolted out west at full speed. I was left
     alone, and much relieved.

     The adult camels were of the most disreputable, not to say
     dissolute appearance, great ugly tangled mats of loose hair hanging
     from their shoulders, ribs, and flanks, their small ears laid
     viciously aback, and with utterly disagreeable countenances. I half
     wish now that I had shot that leading bull--he would never have
     been missed! I don't suppose that any one has been nearer to these
     strange beasts than I was that day; certainly I trust never to see
     them so near again--never in this world!

       *       *       *       *       *

While preparing these pages for press we are grieved to hear of the
death of our friend Mr. William Garvey, whose adventure with the camels
is narrated above (p. 279). Mr. Garvey, who was in his eightieth year,
was a _Gentil Hombre de la Camara_ to King Alfonso and had on various
occasions, with his nephew, Mr. Patrick Garvey, entertained the monarch
on his splendid domain.




At the château of Nuévos, hidden away amidst Cantabrian hills, hard by
where the "Picos de Europa" form the most prominent feature of that
100-mile range, we were welcomed by the Conde de la Vega de Sella, whom
we had met the previous year in Norway, and his friend Bernaldo de
Quirós. Our host was a bachelor and the menage curiously mixed; there
was a wild Mexican-Indian servant, but more alarming still, a tame wolf
prowled free about the house--none too tame either, as testified by a
half-healed wound on his master's arm. The bedrooms in the corridor
which we occupied had no doors, merely curtains hanging across the
doorway, and all night long that wolf pattered up and down the passage
outside. My own feelings will not be described--there was an ominous
mien in that wolf's eye and in those immense jaws.


Beyond patches of maize and other minute crops grown in infinitesimal
fields divided by stone walls and surrounded by woods of chestnut and
hazel, the whole landscape surrounding the château was composed of
towering grey mountains. It was from this point that with our kind host
we had projected an expedition to form acquaintance with chamois, and to
see the system of a _montería_ as practised in the Biscayan mountains.
The month was September.

The first stage--on wheels--brought us to the village of Arénas de
Cabrales, where a gipsy fair or _Romería_ was raging, affording striking
display of local customs and fashion. The girls, handsome though
somewhat stalwart, wearing on their heads bright-coloured kerchiefs
(instead of, as in Andalucia, flowers in the hair), danced strange steps
to the music of a drum and a sort of bagpipe called the _Gaita_. Cider
here replaced wine as a beverage, and wooden sabots are worn instead of
the hempen sandals of the south.

Maize is the chief crop, and women work hard, doing, except the
ploughing, most of the field labour.

The hill-country around belonged chiefly to our host, who was received
with a sort of feudal respect. Ancient rights included (this we were
told, but did not see enforced) the privilege of kissing all pretty
daughters of the estate. The region is primitive enough even for the
survival of so agreeable a custom. Such detail in a serious work must
appear frivolous by comparison, yet it reflects the _genius loci_.

This was the point at which we had to take the hill.

Our outfit was packed on ponies, and being joined by three of the
chamois-hunters, we set out, following the course of the river Cares.
This gorge of the Cares, along with its sister-valley the Desfiladero de
la Deva, form two of the most magnificent canyons in all the Asturias,
and perhaps have few equals in the wider world outside. The bridle-track
led along rock-shelves on the hanging mountain-side, presently falling
again till we rode close by the torrent of the Cares, here swirling in
foaming rapids with alternations of deep pools of such crystalline water
that trout could be discerned swimming twenty feet below the surface.
The water varied between a diamond-white and an emerald-green, according
as the stream flowed over the white limestone or rocks of darker shade.

Approaching Bulnes, the track became absolutely appalling, zigzagging to
right and left up an almost perpendicular mountain. Riding was here out
of the question. It was giddy work enough on foot, rounding corners
where the outer rim overhung a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the
torrent below, and with no protection to save horse or man in the event
of a slip or false step. Not without mental tremors we surmounted it and
reached Bulnes, a dozen stone, windowless houses clustered on an
escarpment. This is facetiously called the "Upper Town," and we
presumed that another group of hovels hidden somewhere beneath our sight
formed Lower Bulnes.

We entered the best looking of these stone-age abodes, and discovered
that it formed the presbytery of the Cura of Bulnes, a strange mixture
of alpine hut with Gothic hermitage. Slabs of rough stone projecting
from unhewn walls served as tables, while rudely carved oak-chests did
double duty as seats or wardrobes in turn. The Cura's bed occupied one
corner, and from the walls hung gun and rifle, together with
accoutrements of the chase--satchels, belts, and pouches, all made of
chamois-skin. At first sight indeed the whole presbytery reeked rather
of hunting than of holiness--it is scarce too strong to say it smelt of
game. An inner apartment, windowless and lit by the feeble flicker of a
_mariposa_, that recalled the reed-lights of mediaeval history (and to
which, by the way, access was only gained past other cells which
appeared to be the abode of cows and of the cook respectively), was
assigned to us.

The Padre himself was away on the cliffs above cutting hay, for he
combines agriculture with the care of souls, owns many cows, and makes
the celebrated cheese known as "Cabrales." Presently he joined us in his
stone chamber, and at once showed himself to be, by his frank and
genuine manner, what later experience proved him, a true sportsman and a
most unselfish companion. His Reverence at once set about the details of
organising our hunt, sent his nephew to round-up the mountain lads, some
being sent off at once to spend that night, how, we know not, in crags
of the Peña Vieja, while others were instructed to join us there in the

While we dined on smoked chamois and rough red wine he busied himself
arranging weapons, ammunition, and mocassins for a few days' work on the
crags. Our arrival having been prearranged, we were soon on our upward
way, by sinous tracks which lead to the summits of the Picos de Europa,
some altitudes of which are as follows: Peña Vieja, 10,046 feet; Picos
de Hierro, 9610 feet; Pico de San Benigno, 9329 feet. All heavy baggage
was left below; there only remained the tent, rugs, guns, and
cartridges, and these were got up, heaven knows how, to about half the
required height on the backs of two donkeys. For provisions we relied on
the milk and bread of the cheese-makers who live up there, much in the
style of the Norwegian peasants at their _saeters_, or summer sheilings
on the fjeld. Hard by the _cabaña_, or cabin, of these honest folks, our
tent was pitched--altitude, 5800 feet.

With the first of the daylight, after a drink of milk, we started
upwards, our host, the Cura, Bertie, and ourselves.

With us were ten goat-herds who had to flank the drive; the others would
already be occupying allotted positions, we knew not where. Three hours'
climbing--the usual struggle, only worse--took us to the first line of
"passes," far above the last signs of vegetation and amidst what little
snow remains here in summer. This "drive" had been reckoned a certainty,
and four animals were reported seen in the mist, but no chamois came in
to the guns, and yet another two-hours' climb had to be faced ere the
second set of posts was reached.

This bit, however, definitely stopped for the moment my career as a
chamois-hunter, such was the slippery, perpendicular, and utterly
dangerous nature of the rocks. A fortnight before I had climbed the
Plaza de Almanzór in the Sierra de Grédos, but these pinnacles of the
Picos proved beyond my powers. The admission, beyond any words of mine,
bespeaks the character of these Cantabrian peaks. Here on a dizzy ledge
at 8000 feet I remained behind, while the rest of the party, filing up a
rock-stair, were lost to sight within fifteen yards.

Before me stretched away peak beyond peak in emulating altitudes the
whole vast cordillera of Cantabria--a glory of mountain-forms.

    ...the things which tower, which shine,
    Whose smile makes glad, whose frown is terrible.

In majestic array, pinnacles and crannied summits, flecked and streaked
with glistening snows, enthral and subdue. The giants Peña Vieja,
Urriales, Garnizo, lift their heads above the rest, piercing the blue
ether--fancied spires in some celestial shrine.

This smiling noontide an all-pervading spirit of peace reigns; the
sublimity of solitude generates reverence and awe, the voice of the
Creator seems audible amidst encompassing silence.

Far away below, as in another world, lie outspread champaigns; sunlit
stubbles, newly stripped of autumnal crops, form chequers of contrasted
colour that set off with golden background the dark Asturian woods,
while fresh green pastures blend in harmony with the riant foliage of
the vine.

Presently, following my companion, a goat-herd, who had been left with
me, by slow degrees we reached the spot appointed to await our party's




Hours went by and six o'clock came before, on the skyline above, they
appeared, five of the _monteros_ each bearing a chamois on his shoulder.
Then, in the 2000-feet ravine towards the north, a third drive was
attempted for my special benefit; but the day was far spent, and during
the crucial half-hour snow-clouds skurrying along the crests shut out
all chance of seeing game. The beaters reported enclosing quite forty
chamois, some of which broke downwards through the flankers, the rest
passing a trifle wide of the guns. This beat is termed "El Arbol."

Long and weary was the descent, and fiendish places we had to pass ere
the welcome camp-fires loomed up through gathering darkness. Those who
wish to shoot chamois should commence the undertaking before they have
passed the half-century.

The successful drive that was thus missed by No. 1 is hereunder
described by No. 2. We give the narrative in detail, inasmuch as this
day's operation was typical of the system of chamois-shooting as
practised in the Asturian mountains.

After leaving No. 1 as mentioned, and while proceeding to our next
position, a number of chamois were viewed scattered in three groups on
the hanging screes of a second gorge, a mile beyond that which we had
intended to beat. After consultation held, it was decided to alter the
plan and to send the guns completely round the outer periphery of
encircling heights so as to command the passes immediately above the
game. This involved two hours' climbing and incidentally three detours,
scrambling each time down the precipitous moraine to avoid showing in
sight of the chamois.

Upon reaching the reverse point, the Conde and I were assigned the most
likely posts; and these being also the highest, a final heart-breaking
climb up a thousand feet of loose rocks succeeded. Chamois, like ibex,
when disturbed instinctively make for the highest ground, hence our
occupation of the topmost passes. Cheered on by the Conde, himself as
hard as steel, the effort was accomplished, and I sank down, breathless,
parched, and exhausted, behind a big rock that was indicated as my
position. The lower passes had meanwhile been occupied by the Padre and
by sundry shepherds armed with primitive-looking guns.

On recovering some degree of breath and strength, I surveyed my
surroundings. We were both stationed on the topmost arête, in a nick
that broke for 80 or 100 yards the rim of a knife-edged ridge that
separated two stupendous gorges. On my right, while facing the beat, and
not 30 yards away, the nick was terminated by a rock-mass perpendicular
and four-square as a cathedral tower, that uprose some 100 feet sheer.
On the left also rose cliffs though not quite so abrupt. The position
was such that any game attempting to pass the nick must appear within 50
or 60 yards--so, in our simplicity, we thought.


Diagram illustrative of text. Our positions on arête marked (1) and (2);
"Cathedral" on right. Valley beyond full of driving mist (passing our
power to depict).]

Behind us dipped away the long moraine of loose rocks by which we had
ascended; while in front, by stepping but a few paces across the narrow
neck, we could look down into the depths of the gorge whence the quarry
was to approach, as we feebly attempt to show in diagram annexed.

The panorama from these altitudes was superb beyond words. We were here
far above the stratum of mist which enshrouded our camp and the sierra
for some distance above it. We looked down upon a billowy sea of white
clouds pierced here and there by the summits and ridges of outstanding
crags like islands on a surf-swept coast.

Of bird-life there was no sign beyond choughs and a soaring eagle that
our guides called aguila pintada (_Aquila bonellii_, immature). There
are wild-boar in the forests far below, with occasional wolves and yet
more occasional bear.

Hark! the distant cries of beaters break the solemn silence and announce
that operations have begun. Almost instantly thereafter the rattle of
loose stones dislodged by the feet of moving chamois came up from
beneath our eyrie. So near was the sound that expectation waxed tense
and eyes scanned each possible exit.

Then from the heights on the left, and already above us, sprang into
view a band of five chamois lightly skipping from ledge to ledge with an
agility that cannot be conveyed in words. The Conde and I fired
simultaneously. The beast I had selected pulled himself convulsively
together, sprang in air, and then fell backwards down the abyss whence
he had just emerged. So abrupt was the skyline that no second barrel was
possible; but while we yet gazed into space the rattle of falling stones
right _behind_ attracted attention in that direction, and a chamois was
bounding across that loose moraine (or "canal" as it is here called) by
which we had ascended. He flew those jumbled rocks as though they were a
ballroom floor, offering at best but a snapshot, and the bullet found
the beast already protected by a rock. Hardly, however, had cartridges
been replaced than three more _Rebecos_ followed along precisely the
same track, and this time each gun secured one buck.

Note that all these last four animals had come in from our _right_, that
is, they had escaladed the "cathedral"; though by what earthly means
they could surmount sheer rock-walls devoid of visible crack or crevice
passes human comprehension. For myself, having regarded the cathedral
as impassable, I had kept no watch on that side.

For the next half-hour all was quiet. Then we heard again the rattle of
hoofs somewhere down under, and on the sound ceasing, had gently raised
ourselves to peer over into the eerie abyss in front, when a chamois
suddenly poked his head over the rocks within fifteen yards, only to
vanish like a flash.

From this advanced position, in the far distance we could now
distinguish the beaters, looking like flies as they descended the
opposite circle of crests, and could hear their cries and the
reverberation of the rocks they dislodged to start the game. An extra
burst of clamour denoted game afoot, and a few seconds later another
chamois (having once more mocked the cathedral barrier) darted across
the moraine behind and fell within a score of yards of the previous
pair, though all three were finally recovered several hundred feet
below, having rolled down these precipitous screes. The first chamois I
had shot had fallen even farther--at one point over a sheer drop that
could not be less than 100 feet. His body was smashed into pulp, every
bone broken, but curiously the horns had escaped intact. We were much
struck by the clear emerald-green light in the eyes of newly killed

The beaters being now close at hand, we scrambled down to rejoin the
Padre who had occupied the _puesto_ next below ours. We found that
worthy man very happy as he had succeeded in putting two slugs into a
chamois-buck, to which the _coup de grâce_ had been given by Don Serafin
lower down.

A curious incident occurred as we made our way to the next beat where
"No. 1" was to rejoin us. Suddenly the rugged stones that surrounded us
were vivified by a herd of bouncing chamois--they had presumably been
disturbed elsewhere and several came our way. A buck fell to a long shot
of our host; while another suddenly sprang into view right under the
Padre's feet. This, he averred, he would certainly have killed had he
been loaded with slugs (_postas_) instead of ball.

The six chamois brought into camp to-night included four bucks and two
does. We had not ourselves found it possible to distinguish the sexes in
life, though long practice enabled the Conde to do so when within
moderate distance. All six were of a foxy-red colour, and the horns
measured from seven to eight inches over the bend.

Chamois are certainly very much easier to obtain than ibex. Not only are
they tenfold more abundant, but, owing to their diurnal habits, they are
easily seen while feeding in broad daylight (often in large herds) on
the open hillsides. They never enter caves or crevices of the rocks as
ibex habitually do.

Chamois might undoubtedly be obtained by stalking, though that art is
not practised in Spain. The excessively rugged nature of the ground is
rather against it; for one's view being often so restricted, there is
danger while stalking chamois, which have been espied from a distance,
of "jumping" others previously unseen though much nearer. Driving, as
above described, is the method usually adopted. Few beaters
comparatively are required; the positions of flankers and stops are
often clearly indicated by the natural configuration of the crests.

Dogs are occasionally employed. The game, in their terror of canine
pursuers, will push forward into precipices whence there is no exit; and
then, rather than attempt to turn, will spring down to certain death.

The best foot-gear is the Spanish _alpargata_, or hemp-soled sandal.
They will withstand two or three days' wear on the roughest of rocks and
only cost some eighteenpence a pair. Nailed boots are useless and

Similar days followed, some more successful, others less, but all
laborious in the last degree. Both limbs and lungs had well-nigh given
out ere the time arrived to strike camp and abandon our eyrie.

During the descent to Bulnes we noticed a goat which, in feeding along
the crags, had reached a spot whence it could neither retreat nor
escape, and by bleating cries distinctly displayed its fear. Now that
goat was only worth one dollar, yet its owner spent a solid hour,
risking his own life, in crawling along ledges and shelves of a fearful
rock-wall (_pared_) to save the wretched animal. We looked on
speechless, fascinated with horror--at times pulses well-nigh stood
still; even our hunters recognised that this was a rash performance. Yet
that goat was reached, a lasso attached to its neck, and it was drawn
upwards to safety.

This incident occurred on the Naranjo de Bulnes, a dolomite mountain
which stands out like a perpendicular and four-square tower, in the
central group or _massif_ of the Picos--that known as Urriales. The
actual height of the Naranjo is given as 9424 feet, which is exceeded by
those of either of the other two groups to east and west respectively.
But its abrupt configuration gives the Naranjo by far the most imposing,
indeed appalling appearance, far surpassing all its rivals, while its
lateral walls of sheer rock, some of which reach 1500 to 2000 feet
vertically, long lent this peak the reputation of being absolutely
unscalable. That feat has, however (after countless failures), been
accomplished, in the first instance by Don Pedro Pidal, Marquis de
Villaviciosa de Asturias, who was accompanied in the ascent by Gregorio
Perez, a famous chamois-hunter of Caïn.

At Arénas de Cabrales we bade farewell to our kind host, despatched
Caraballo with the baggage to Santandér, thence to find his way to Jerez
as best he might, by sea; and ourselves drove off through the hills
forty miles to the railway at Cabezón de la Sal, there to entrain for
Bilbao, Paris, and London.

       *       *       *       *       *

On August 19, 1881, at a royal _montería_ above Aliva and Andara H.M.
Don Alfonso XII. recovered the same evening (lying dead around his post)
no less than twenty-one chamois. Thirteen more, which had fallen into
the abyss beneath, were brought in next morning, and nine others later,
making a total of forty-three chamois actually recovered, besides those
that had lodged in such inaccessible spots that their bodies could not
be reached.

At another royal shoot held 1st and 2nd September 1905 H.M. King Alfonso
XIII. killed five chamois, the total bag on that occasion being


In 1905 the freeholders of those villages in the three provinces of
Santandér, León, and Asturias, which lie encircling the Picos de Europa,
offered to H.M. King Alfonso XIII. the exclusive rights of hunting the
chamois throughout the whole "Central Group." His Majesty was pleased to
accept the offer, and in the following year commissioned the Marquis of
Villaviciosa de Asturias (the intrepid conqueror of the Naranjo) to
appoint guards to preserve the game.

Five such guards were appointed in 1906, their chief being the
aforementioned Gregorio Perez, representing the region of Caïn, the
other four representing those of Bulnes, Sotres, Espiñama, and Valdeón.

The chamois in the four regions named can be counted in thousands.


HOOPOE (_Upupa epops_)

The crest normally folds flat, backwards (as shown at p. 69), but at
intervals flashes upright like a halo.]




The Asturian Highlands--a maze of mist-wreathed mountains forested with
birch and pine, the home of brown bear and capercaillie, and on whose
towering peaks roam herds of chamois by hundreds--form a region distinct
from the rest of Spain.

Rushing rivers and mountain-torrents coursing down each rent in those
rock-ramparts attracted our earliest angling ambitions. Some of those
efforts--with rod and gun--are recorded in _Wild Spain_, and we purpose
attempting no more--whether with pen or fly-rod. For the Spanish trout
is given no sort of sporting chance, and lovely streams--a very epitome
of trouting-water--that might make the world a pleasanter planet (and
enrich their owners too) are abandoned to the assassin with dynamite and
quicklime, or to villainous nets, cruives, and other engines of
wholesale destruction with which we have no concern.

Never since the date of _Wild Spain_ have we cast line on Spanish
waters, nor ever again will we attempt it. Spain which, from her French
frontier in the Pyrenees right across to that of Portugal on the west,
might rival any European country in this respect stands well-nigh at the
foot of the list. Not in the most harassed streams of Norway, nor in her
hardest-"ottered" lakes, have the trout so damnable a fate dealt out to
them as in northern Spain, and for twenty years we have abandoned it as
an angling potentiality--or, to put it mildly, there are countries
infinitely more attractive to the wandering fisherman.

The case of the Spanish trout as it stands to-day is summed up in the
following letter, dated April 1910, from our friend Capt. F. J.

     I have tried a great many of the best rivers in northern Spain,
     and have come to the conclusion that for angling purposes they
     have been hopelessly ruined--by dynamite, cloruro, lime, coca, and
     various other things. There may be deep pools here and there where
     fish have escaped, but they are very few. If your book is not
     finished you can put this in, as it is accurate, and may save many
     a disappointment to the free fisherman.

Farther south, in León and northern Estremadura, are also rivers of
first-rate character. The Alagón, for example, with its tributaries, is
well adapted for trout--dashing streams with alternate stretches of pool
and rapid. These still hold trout in their head-waters among the
mountains; but lower down the speckled beauties are well-nigh

In this region one frequently observes, not without surprise, evidence
of the introduction and acclimatisation of exotic products by old-time
Moors--often in most outlandish nooks, wherever their keen eyes had
spotted some fertile patch: probably, ere this, that energetic race
would have preserved and cultivated the trout! The success of such
enterprise in New Zealand and South Africa (it is even promising to
succeed under the Equator in B.E. Africa), and indeed in Spain itself
(at Algeciras), attests how easily these Iberian waters might be endowed
with a new interest and a new value.

Such, however, is existent apathy that, although the local natives (N.
Estremadura) were aware of the presence of fish in their rivers, and
told us that some ran to 10 or 12 lbs. in weight (these were barbel),
yet they knew no distinctive names for the various species. All fish,
big or little, were merely _pesces--Muy buenas pesces_. None could
describe them, whether as to appearance or habit, nor did they know
whether some species were migratory or otherwise.

The only angling we have seen practised in this province was at
Trujillo, where in some lakes adjoining that old-world city _Tencas_ (we
presume tench) up to 5 or 6 lbs. are taken with bait.


To such an extent used these to abound in Asturian streams that
maid-servants stipulated on entering domestic service that they should
not be given salmon more than twice a week. At the present day the
pollution of rivers by coal-mining and other impurities has in some
cases banished the salmon entirely, in others greatly reduced their
numbers. There yet remain, nevertheless, rivers in Asturias (such as the
Deva and Cares) where salmon abound, and where numbers are still
caught--chiefly by net, though rod-fishing is gradually extending its
popularity, "owing to the glorious emotions it excites."

A local method deserves a word of description. In the crystal-clear
waters of N. Spain salmon are regularly captured by expert divers. Its
exact position having been marked, the diver, swimming warily up from
behind, slips a running noose over the salmon's head. The noose draws
tight as the fish begins to run; an attached line is then hauled upon by
a second fisherman on the bank.

The Marquis de Villaviciosa de Asturias writes us:--

     It is a common practice with the fishermen to dive and capture
     salmon in their arms (_á brazo_). My grandfather, the Marquis de
     Camposagrado, caught twelve thus in a single morning in the river
     Nalon in Asturias.


To the same nobleman (one of the first sportsmen of Spain) we are
indebted for the following note:--

     As regards the chase of the bear in Asturias, where I have killed
     four, I may say that it commences in September, at which period the
     bears are in the habit of descending nightly from the higher
     mountain-forests to the lower ground in order to raid the
     maize-fields in the valleys. Expert trackers, sent out at daybreak,
     spoor the bear right up to whichever covert he may have entered,
     and from which no further tracks emerge beyond.

     The locality at which the animal has laid up being thus
     ascertained, a _montería_ (mountain-drive) is organised--the
     beaters being provided with crackers, empty tins, hunting-horns,
     and every sort of ear-splitting engine--even the services of the
     bagpiper[52] are requisitioned!

     Three or four guns are usually required, and are posted along the
     line where the bear is most likely to break--such as where the
     forest runs out to a point; or where it is narrowed by some
     projecting spur of precipitous rocks; or a deep valley where the
     covert is flanked by a mountain-torrent that restricts and defines
     the probable line of escape.

     The bear (which is in the habit of attacking and destroying much
     cattle) comes crashing through the brushwood, breaking down all
     obstacles, and giving ample notice by the noise of his advance. If
     wounded he will attack the aggressor; but otherwise bears only
     become dangerous when they have young or are hurt in some way. The
     picturesque nature of these mountain-forests lends a further
     fascination to the chase of the bear in Asturias. From twenty to
     thirty bears are killed here every year.

The following quaint paragraphs we extract from Spanish newspapers:--

     FIGHT WITH A BEAR.--In the mountains of the Province of Lerida
     (Catalonia) a bear last week attacked and overpowered a muleteer,
     intending to devour him. A shepherd who happened to be in the
     neighbourhood, though at some little distance, witnessed the
     occurrence. Hastening with his utmost speed to the spot, he threw
     himself between the bear and its victim; and after a prolonged and
     strenuous combat (_lucha larga y esforzada_), the shepherd
     succeeded with his lance (_garrocha_) in killing the savage beast

     In his gratitude, the muleteer desired to present the shepherd with
     the best horse of his cavalcade, but this the latter
     declined.--_November 24, 1907._

     INCURSION OF A BEAR.--In the outskirts of the village of Parámo in
     the Province of Oviedo (Asturias) there has within the last few
     days made its presence felt an immense bear which continued to
     execute terrible destruction among the cattle belonging to the
     villagers. Fortunately the parish-priest, who is an expert shot,
     succeeded in killing the depredator. It weighed 140 kilograms (=
     300 lbs.).--_April 25, 1908._ [Two others are recorded to weigh 400
     and 440 lbs.]

     CHASE OF A SHE-BEAR--SANTANDÉR, _February 1909_. From Molledo an
     assemblage of the local peasantry, mustered for the purpose, and
     bearing every kind of weapon, sallied forth, to give battle to a
     bear which for some weeks had been working havoc among their flocks
     and herds. After traversing the mountains in all directions without
     result, they were already returning, dead-beat and disappointed,
     towards their village, when they suddenly descried the bear
     standing in the entrance to a cave. On observing the presence of
     hunters, the animal disappeared within. A shepherd named Melchor
     Martinez at once followed, penetrating the interior of the cavern
     which extends far into the mountain-side. Presently on indistinctly
     perceiving (_divisando_) the beast, Melchor gave it a shot--flying
     out himself with hair all standing on end (_encrespados_) at the
     roaring of the wild beast (_fiera_). Melchor, nevertheless, at once
     entered the den again and fired a second shot--jumping out
     immediately thereafter. After a short interval, the roars of the
     _fiera_ within having ceased, the hunters in a body entered the
     cavern and found an enormous she-bear lying dead, together with
     four young, alive, which they carried away.

(Bravo, Melchor Martinez!)


Alike in its game-denizens with other physical features, Cantabria is
differentiated from the rest of Spain, approximating rather to a
north-European similitude. Thus the capercaillie is spread along the
whole Biscayan range though nowhere numerous, and in appearance less so
than in fact, owing to the density of these mountain-forests.

During our long but fruitless rambles after bear we raised but four;
that, however, was in spring when these birds are apt to lie close.

In the Pyrenees (where the capercaillie is known as _Gallo de Bosque_) a
certain number are shot every winter along with roebuck and pig in
mountain-drives (_monterías_); but in the Asturias the pursuit of the
_Gallo de Monte_ is effected (as in Austria and northern Europe) during
its courting-season in May. The system is well known. The opportunity
occurs at dusk and dawn, the stalker advancing while the lovelorn male
sings a frenzied epithalamium, halting instantly when the bird becomes

Ptarmigan are found in the Pyrenees, but seem to extend no farther west
than the Province of Navarre, which area also coincides roughly with the
southern distribution of the hazel-grouse (_Tetrao bonasia_) though we
had some suspicion (not since confirmed) that the latter may extend into

Our common grey partridge, unknown in S. Spain, occurs all along the
Cantabrian highlands up to, but not beyond, the Cordillera de León. Here
it descends to the foothills in winter, but is never found on the

A bird peculiar to this region, though not game, deserves remark, the
great black woodpecker, a subarctic species which we have observed in
the Picos de Europa.


Nearly all the Spanish rivers when they leave the sierras and dawdle
through the plains degenerate into sluggish mud-charged streams; but
most of them are well stocked with barbel, which may be caught by
methods similar to those in vogue on the Thames, _i.e._ by float-fishing
or ledgering with fine but strong tackle, as the first rush of a barbel
is worthy of a trout. These fish average about one pound in weight, but
in favourable spots, such as mill-tails, run up to 10 lbs. and upwards.

The Spanish barbel has developed one trait in advance of its English
cousins, for it will rise to a fly, or at least to a grasshopper. Owing
to the abundance of these insects and of crickets along the river-banks
in summer, the barbel have acquired a taste for such delicacies, and a
hot June afternoon in Andalucia may be worse spent than in "dapping"
beneath the trees that fringe the banks of Guadalete and similar rivers.

The _Boga_, a little fish of the roach or dace family, seldom exceeding
a quarter pound, will afford amusement in all the smaller trout-streams
of Spain and Portugal when trout are recusant. The _boga_ is lured with
a worm-tail (on finest gut and smallest hook) from each little run or
cascade, whence five or six dozens may be extracted in an afternoon.

The Grey Mullet (Spanish, _Lisa_) is a good sporting fish ranging from
half a pound up to four pounds weight, and caught readily in tidal
rivers as it comes up from sea on the flood. Native anglers are often
very successful, using long roach-poles and gear similar to that of the
roach-fisher at home. The bait is either lugworm or paste, and on
favouring days as many as two dozen mullet are landed during the run of
the flood-tide.

The Shad (Spanish, _Sabalo_), though not only the handsomest but also
the best-eating of all tidal-river fish, is of no concern to the angler,
since it refuses to look at lure of any kind.

The Tunny (Spanish, _Atun_) frequents the south-Spanish coasts and comes
in millions to the mouths of the big rivers (especially the
Guadalquivír) to spawn. The usual method of capture is by a huge fixed
net called the _almadrava_, extending three miles out to sea, and placed
at such an angle to the coast-line that the fish, on striking it, follow
along to the inshore end, where they enter a _corral_ or enclosed space
about an acre in extent. Here the fishing-boats lie waiting, and when as
many as 500 huge tunnies (they average 300 lbs. apiece) are enclosed at
once, a scene of wild excitement and bloodshed ensues, the great fish
darting and splashing around their prison, sending spray flying
mast-high, while the fishermen yell and gaff and harpoon by turns.

The most successful _almadrava_ is situate at Rota, some seven miles
south of the mouth of Guadalquivír, the average catch for the season
(May 1 till August 1) being about 20,000 tunnies. A canning factory
stands on the shore hard by, where the fish are boiled, potted, and
shipped to Italy, whence (the tins being labelled "Italian Tunny") they
are exported to all parts of the world! The flesh resembles veal, and is
much appreciated in South America.


At this period, when the tunny go to spawn (exclusively larger fish),
they travel, as the Spaniards say, with their mouths shut, and nothing
will induce them to look at a bait. There occurs, however, in winter
(November to February) another "run" of smaller fish averaging 50 to 150
lbs. apiece, and these are amenable to temptation. Tarifa, in the
Straits of Gibraltar, is a favourable point from which to attempt this
sport. The system is to cruise about in a falucho, or sailing-boat,
carrying a plentiful supply of sardines, mackerel, and other small fish
to serve as bait. These, on arrival at likely waters, are thrown
overboard one by one till at length they attract a roving tunny. The
operation is repeated till the quarry is enticed close up to the vessel.
A similar fish, impaled on a two-inch hook, is then offered him,
dangling on the surface, and will probably be seized. The tunny on
finding himself held, makes off in a bee-line at a mile a minute.
Needless to say, the strongest tackle must be used, together with some
hundreds of yards of line, and the fight will be severe and prolonged,
for the tunny is one of the swiftest and most active of fish, and he
weighs as much as an average man. Few amateurs have hitherto attempted
this sport; but as large numbers of tunny are caught thus by
professional fishermen with extremely coarse hand-lines, there seems to
be no reason why "big-game fishing" in Spain, if scientifically pursued,
might not rival that of California.

The Bonito is another fine game-fish which may be caught at sunrise at
nearly any point on the Andalucian sea-board by trolling with a white



The Sierra Neváda with its striking skylines, crisp and clean-cut
against an azure background, is yearly surveyed by thousands of tourists
in southern Spain. The majority content themselves with the distant view
from the battlements of Alhambra or from the summer-palace of
Generalife. Few penetrate the alpine solitude or scale peaks that look
so near yet cost some toil to gain.

We are not ashamed to admit that these glorious sierras have in
themselves possessed for us attractions that transcend in interest the
accumulated art-treasures, the store of historic and legendary lore that
illumine the shattered relics of Moslem rule--of an Empire City where
during seven centuries the power and faith of the Crescent dominated
south-western Europe and the focal point of mediaeval culture and
chivalry. None, nevertheless, can long sojourn in Granada wholly
uninfluenced by its stirring past, by the pathetic story of the fall of
Moorish dominion, and the words graven on countless stones till they
seem to represent the very spirit of this land, the words of the
founder, King Alhama: LA GALIB ILLA ALLAH = Only God is Victor.

Abler pens have portrayed these things, and we will only pause to touch
on one dramatic episode--since its scene lies on our course to the "high
tops"--when Boabdil, last of the Caliphs, paused in his flight across
the _vega_ to cast back a final glance at the scene of his former
greatness and lost empire. "You do well," snarled Axia, his mother, "to
weep over your kingdom like a woman since you could not defend it like a
man." That the maternal reproach was undeserved was proved by Boabdil's
heroic death in battle, thirty years later, near Fez.[54]

From this spot--still poetically called El Ultimo Suspiro del Moro--the
Sierra Neváda stretches away some forty miles to the eastward with an
average depth of ten miles, and includes within that area the four
loftiest altitudes in all this mountain-spangled Peninsula of Spain. The
chief points in the Pyrenees, nevertheless, run them fairly close, as
shown in the following table:--


  _Sierra Neváda._

  Mulahacen                 11,781
  Picacho de la Veleta      11,597
  Alcazába                  11,356
  Cerro de los Machos       11,205
  Col de la Veleta          10,826


  Pico de Nethou            11,168
  Monte de Posets           11,046
  Monte Perdido             10,994

By way of comparison it may be added that the next greatest elevations
in Spain are:--

  Picos de Europa (described in Chap. XXVIII.)      10,046 feet
  Sierra de Grédos (already described)               8,700 "

Curiously all the loftiest elevations occur outside the great central
table-lands of Spain, the highest point of which latter is the
last-quoted Sierra de Grédos.

Adjoining the Sierra Neváda on the south, and practically filling the
entire space between it and the Mediterranean, lie the Alpuxarras,
covering some fourteen miles by ten. The Alpuxarras are of no great
elevation (4000 to 5000 feet), and are separated from their giant
neighbours by the Valle de Lecrin, the entrance to which bears the
poetic name of El Ultimo Suspiro del Moro, as just described.

Here is a Spanish appreciation of Neváda:--

     Compare this with northern mountains--Alps or Pyrenees: the tone,
     the colours, the ambient air differentiate this southern range.
     Snow, it is true, surmounts all alike, but here the very sky
     flashes radiant (_rutilante_) in its azure intensity contrasted
     with the cold blue of glacier-ice. Here, in lower latitude, the
     rocks appear rather scorched by a torrid sun than lashed by winter
     rain and hibernal furies. The valleys present a semi-tropical
     aspect, resulting from the industry of old-time Moors, who, ever
     faithful to the precepts of the Koran, introduced every such
     species of exotic fruit or herb as was calculated to flourish and
     enrich the land.[55]

The main chain of the Sierra Neváda constitutes one of the strongholds
of the Spanish ibex; and, curiously, the ibex is the solitary example of
big game that these mountains can boast. Differing in geological
formation from other mountain-systems of southern Spain, the Sierra
Neváda shelters neither deer of any kind--red, fallow, or roe--nor
wild-boar. The ibex, on the other hand, must be counted as no mean
asset, and though totally unprotected, they yet hold their own--a fair
average stock survives along the line of the Veleta, Alcazába, and
Mulahacen. This survival is due to the vast area and rugged regions over
which (in relatively small numbers) the wild-goats are scattered; but
even more so to the antiquated muzzle-loading smooth-bores hitherto
employed against them. That moment when cheap, repeating cordite rifles
shall have fallen into the hands of the mountain-peasantry will sound
the death-knell of the ibex.

[Illustration: LAMMERGEYER (_Gypallus barbatus_)

A glorious denizen of Sierra Neváda.]

While writing the above we hear (from two sources) that the "Mauser" has
at last got into the hands of at least one local goat-herd, who last
summer killed four out of a band of five ibex--all sexes and sizes.
There is no mistaking the import of this. It signifies that the end is
in view unless prompt measures are taken to save the ibex of Neváda from

So long as local hunters were restricted to their old ball-guns, the
contest was fairly equal and the game could hold its own. But neither
ibex nor any other wild beast on earth can withstand _FREE_ shooting
(unlicensed and unlimited) with 1000-yard "repeaters." Personally the
writer regards the use of repeating-rifles on game as sheer barbarism.
These are military weapons, and should be excluded from every field of

A precisely analogous case is afforded by Norway and her reindeer. The
Mauser first appeared there in 1894. Three years later we pointed out,
both to the Norwegian Government and also in _Wild Norway_, that unless
steps were taken to regulate and limit the resultant massacre, the wild
reindeer would be extinct within five years. Our warnings passed
unheeded; but the prediction erred only on the side of moderation. For
only four years later (in 1901) the Norsk Government was forced to
_prohibit absolutely_ all shooting for a period of seven years, and to
impose, on the expiry of that time, both licence-duties and limits,
alike on native as well as on foreign sportsmen.

Free shooting, unregulated and unlimited, means with modern weapons
instant extermination--a matter of a few years. Then, after some
creature has perished off the face of the earth, we read a gush of
maudlin regret and vain disgust. It is too late; why do not these good
folk bestir themselves while there is time to safeguard creatures that
yet survive, though menaced with deadly danger? Warnings such as ours
pass unnoticed, and platonic tears are bottled-up for posthumous

       *       *       *       *       *

In winter the ibex are driven downwards by the snow. They first descend
southwards to the Trevenque--one of those abruptly peaked mountains that
"stretch out" even skilled climbers to conquer. A long knife-edged ridge
is Trevenque, culminating in a sheer pyramidal aiguille, its flanks
scarred by ravines with complication of scarp and counter-scarp,
upstanding crags and steep shale-shoots that defy definition by pen or

A main winter resort is supplied by the Alpuxarras, and, beyond the
dividing Valle de Lecrin, ibex are distributed along the whole series of
mountain-ranges that lie along the Mediterranean as far as the Sierras
Bermeja and Ronda.

Among those subsidiary ranges, the following may here be specified as
ibex-frequented, to wit: the Sierras de Nerja and Lujar near Motril,
Sierra Tejáda lying south of the Vega de Granada (especially the part
called Cásulas, which, with most of the range, is private property and
preserved), Sierras de Competa and Alhama, and, nearer the sea, the
Sierra Frigiliana belonging to the late Duke of Fernan Nunez, who
secured trophies thereon exceeding thirty inches in length.

Westward, in the Province of Malaga, lie the Sierra de Ojen, Sierra
Blanca, and Palmitera (a great area of these being now preserved by Mr.
Pablo Larios), and last the Sierra Bermeja, described in _Wild Spain_.
Several of these ranges are of bare rock, while others are covered to
their summits with gorse and other brushwood.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most enjoyable season for ibex-shooting (and on preserved ground the
most favourable) is during August and September, when the snow has
practically disappeared, except the permanent glaciers and stray patches
in some northern ravines. Camp-life is then delightful and exhilarating
and, given sound lungs and limbs, the game may be fairly stalked and
shot. The photo shows a typical trophy--a grand ibex ram shot years ago
on the Alcazába, horns 28-1/4 inches--another specimen measuring 29
inches is figured in _Wild Spain_. Our own experiences with ibex,
however, are now rather remote and might appear out-of-date. We
therefore content ourselves with the following extract from our work

On a bitterly cold March morning we found ourselves, 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 Lanjarón (2284 feet) 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 Lanjarón 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 farther 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, when 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.



[Illustration: NEST OF GRIFFON.]

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 upward 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 ceiling,
fancying that the constant drip on our noses all night might be
unpleasant. The altitude of our ledge above sea-level was about 8500
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 during the day the snow was generally soft--the sun being very
hot--yet after dark we found the way 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 a
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 we saw ibex on the snow-fields and towering rocks above our
cave. They were now of a light fawn-colour, very shaggy in appearance,
some males carrying magnificent 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--though _miles_ read but
paltry words! From where that goat was he could survey half a dozen

These ibex proved quite inaccessible, and 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
scrambling caveward 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 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 Estéban, a Spanish sportsman whom we had taken with
us. Silently he stole back to 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,
above the cave, and the splash of the lead on the rock beyond--_eighteen
inches_ too low! an impossible miss for one used to the "Express." Oh,
Estéban, Estéban! what were our feelings towards you on that fateful

Life in a mountain-cave high above snow-level--six men huddled together,
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 us from repeating the
experiment. These initial campaigns were too early in the season (March
and April).

The only birds seen were choughs and ravens; ring-ouzels lower down.
There were plenty of trout, though small, in the hill-burns. On one
occasion a circular rainbow across a deep gorge perfectly reflected in
the centre our own figures on passing a given point. The ice-going
abilities of the mountaineers were 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. How such performances
diminish one's self-esteem! How weak are our efforts! Even on the softer
southern drifts, what balancing, what scrambling and crawling on hands
and knees are 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 _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, Dolóres, to welcome us back from the snows
of Alpuxarras!"

_Dolóres._ "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 Lanjarón."

_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."

_Dolóres._ "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 Dolóres came to my mind, "Ya tiene su palma y su




The long snow-lines of the sierra had vanished behind whirling
cloud-masses, black and menacing. The green avenues of the Alhambra
seemed gloomier than ever under a heavy downpour, while troops of
rain-soaked tourists belied the glories of an Andalucian springtide.

[Illustration: "UNEMPLOYED"

Bee-eaters on a wet morning.]

Serins sang in the elms, and wrynecks noisily courted, as we set forth
with a donkey-team for the sierra. On former occasions we had explored
northwards up the Darro towards Jaën, another year up the Genil, this
spring we had selected the valley of the Monachil. Hardly had we entered
the mountains than thunder crackled overhead, and then a rain-burst
drove us to shelter in a cave. Next day broke ominous enough, but we
rode on up the wild gorge of the Monachil, and after seven hours'
hill-climbing reached the alpine farm of San Gerónimo, to the guarda of
which we had a recommendation. The house nestles beneath the serrated
ridge of the Dornájo, 6970 feet.

With some dismay we found assembled at this outlandish spot quite a
small crowd of men, women, and children who, with dogs, pigs, hens, and
an occasional donkey, all appeared to inhabit a single smoke-filled
room. We were bidden to take seats amidst this company, and watched the
attempt to boil an enormous pan of potatoes over a green brushwood
fire, while domestic animals (including cattle) passed freely through to
the byres beyond. These being on higher ground had created in front a
sort of quagmire, which was crossed by a plank-bridge. Rain was falling
smartly, and the writer's spirits, be it confessed, sank to zero at the
prospect of a week or two in such quarters. Worse situations, however,
have had to be faced, and usually yield to resolute treatment. Thus when
a separate room--albeit but a dirty potato store--had been assigned to
us, trestle-beds and a table set up, the quality of comfort advanced in
quite disproportionate degree.

Now the Sierra Neváda with its league-long lines of unbroken snow,
accentuated by the mystery of the towering Veleta, massive Mulahacen,
and the rest, presents an alpine panorama that is absolutely unrivalled
in all the Peninsula. But immediately below those transcendent
altitudes, in its middle regions the Sierra Neváda is lacking in many of
those attributes that charm our eyes--naturalists' eyes. Over vast areas
and on broad shoulders of the hills the winter-snows linger so long that
plant-life, where not actually extinct, is scant and starved; while
these dreary inchoate stretches are strewn broadcast with a debris of
shale and schist that resembles nothing so much as one of nature's giant
rubbish tips. True, there exists a sporadic brushwood, exiguous,
dwarfed, and intermittent; there are scattered trees, ilex and pinaster
(_Pinus pinaster_), up to about 7000 feet. But all seems barren by
comparison. One's eye hungers for the deep jungles of Moréna, for the
dark-green _pinsapos_ of San Cristobal, or the stately granite walls of
Grédos. Here all is on a big scale, the biggest in Spain; but size alone
does not itself constitute beauty, and the adornments of beauty are
lacking. We write of course not as mountaineers, but as naturalists.

It boots not to tell of days when rain fell in sheets and an icy
_neblina_ swept the hills, shrouding their summits from view. A single
ornithological remembrance shall be recorded--the abundance of certain
northern-breeding species on the middle heights, especially common
wheatears and skylarks. After watching these carefully, we were
convinced by their actions (their song, courting, and fluttering flight)
that both intended to nest here at 7000 feet, and dissection confirmed
that view. Time alone prevented our settling the point; but a month
later (say early in June) an ornithologist could easily verify the fact.

May the 1st broke bright and clear, not a cloud in the azure firmament.
The songs of hoopoes, serins, and a cuckoo resounded hard by, and from
our paneless window we watched three glorious rock-thrushes "displaying"
before their sober mates--as sketched at p. 18. Within sight among the
tumbled boulders were also a pair of blue thrushes, with a woodlark or
two, several black-starts, and rock-buntings.

[Illustration: WOODLARK (_Alauda arborea_)

Nests in Neváda up to 5000 feet, and in the pine-forests of Doñana at

We bathed in an ice-cold burn with temperature little above freezing--at
dawn, indeed, the backwaters were ice-bound. Then, mounted on a donkey,
the writer alternately scrambled up the stony steeps or dragged the
sure-footed beastie behind. The gentler slopes were fairly clad with
yellow daffodil or narcissus, now just coming into bloom, and above 7000
feet we entered a zone of dwarf-arbutus and ilex-scrub. The warm
sunshine brought out numerous butterflies--it seemed strange to see
these frail creatures fluttering across open snows! Most of those
recognised were tortoise-shells, rather paler than our own.

Alas, before noon the icy mists once more swept up. In a crevice among
some rocks where we sought shelter at 8000 feet the skeleton of a
wheatear attested the cruel conditions of bird-life--death by
starvation. Here we separated, the writer going for a snow-scramble,
following the dwindling Monachil to its source, where the nascent river
trickles in triple streamlets down black rock-walls mantled by impending
snow-fields. Here snow lay in scattered patches dotted with the
resurgent unkillable "pincushion" gorse (_Buphaurum spinosum_) and a
spiny broom that later develops a purple blossom, and separated by
intervals where the melting mantle had left Mother Earth viscous and
inchoate, heart-broken at the indignity of eight months in the arctic.
Higher up the snow became continuous, but seamed by innumerable rills,
each laughing and dancing as in delight at a new-found existence, or
converging to join streams in buoyant exuberance. Some leapt forward
through fringing margins of emerald moss; others ploughed sullen ways
beneath an overhung snow-brae. But no chirp or sound of bird-life broke
the silence, the only living creatures were ants and a bronze-green
beetle! (_Pterostichus rutilans_, Dej.)--not a sign of those alpine
forms we had specially come to seek.


From 8500 feet the snow stretched upwards unbroken (save where some
sheer escarpment protruded), covering in purest white the vast shoulder
of the Veleta. The Picácho itself was to-day hidden amidst swirling
clouds, and only once did we enjoy a momentary glimpse of its great
scarped outline. Yet in three short weeks, say by May 20, all these
leagues of solid snow will have vanished.

Facing this gorge of the Monachil, the opposite slope is crowned by the
conspicuous turreted crags known as the Peñones de San Francisco, 8460
feet. To these L. had climbed, and though we both failed in finding the
chief of our special objects (the snow-finch) yet L. had enjoyed a
glimpse of another alpine species, new to us, and we decided to revisit
the spot on the morrow.

That morning again broke fine, the precursor of a glorious day. Hardly
had we left our quarters than a lammergeyer soared overhead, then,
gently closing his giant wings, plunged into a cavern above. Five
minutes later he reappeared and, after several aerial evolutions,
suddenly checked and, with indrawn pinions, swept downwards to earth.
Ere we could surmount an intervening ridge, the great dragon-like
_Gypaëtus_ swept into view, his golden breast gleaming in the early
sunlight, and bearing in his talons a long bone with which he sailed
across the valley towards Trevenque; we watched to see the result, but,
so far as prism-glasses could reach, that bone was never dropped.
Probably he had some special spot habitually used for bone-breaking.
Later a griffon-vulture (a species rarely seen in Neváda) passed
overhead, and then a second lammergeyer sailed up the gorge of Monachil.

[Illustration: SOARING VULTURE]

'Tis a long up-grade grind to the Peñones, but repaid by magnificent
views of the Picácho de la Veleta--its scarped outline gloriously offset
against the deepest azure and its 1000-foot sheer drop vanishing to
unseen depths in the mysterious "corral" beneath--an inspiring scene.

Beyond to the eastward towered the mountain-mass,
Mulahacen--perpetuating the name of that Moslem chief whose remains, so
tradition records, yet lie in some unknown glacial niche in this the
loftiest spot of all the Spains. There they were laid to rest by the
fond hands of Zoraya, at the dying request of her husband the
penultimate Moorish king, Muley-Hacen.

Our upward course led through beds of dwarf-juniper, thick strong stems
all flattened down horizontally by the weight of winters' snows,
precisely as one sees them on the high fjelds of Norway. Here, both
to-day and yesterday, we observed ring-ouzels, doubtless nesting amid
the dense covert.

We soon picked up our friends of yesterday--small hedge-sparrow-like
birds with blue-grey throat, striated back, and red patches on either
flank, the alpine accentor. At first they were fairly tame, allowing us
to watch and sketch them perched on lowly shrub or rock, warbling a
sweet little carol (louder, but otherwise resembling that of our
hedge-sparrow), or darting to pick up a straying ant. After a while that
confidence, though wholly unabused, vanished; they became wild and
cautious, refusing to allow us a single specimen! These birds were
evidently paired, but showed no signs of nesting. Alas, that a drawing
by Commander Lynes depicting the scene with the Picácho de la Veleta in
the background refuses to "reproduce"!

These were the only accentors we saw, nor did we see to-day or any other
day a single snow-finch.

       *       *       *       *       *

_An Alpine Farm._--The lands of San Gerónimo (where we were quartered)
extend up the Monachil to either watershed--a length of 4-1/2 leagues,
while the breadth cannot average less than two. The acreage we leave to
be calculated by those who care for such detail. At this date (early
May) certainly one-half lay under snow, which still encumbered the
higher patches of cultivation--to-day we saw men unearthing last
autumn's crop of potatoes well above the snow-line. At lower levels some
corn already stood six inches high, but many "fields" were necessarily,
as yet, unploughed. Fields, by the way, were separated not, as at home,
by hedges, but sometimes by a sheer drop of 500 or 1000 feet, elsewhere
by perpendicular rock-faces or by shale-shoots. But the laborious
cultivation missed not one level patch--nor unlevel either, since we saw
ox-teams ploughing where one wondered if even a cat could maintain a

This is the highest farm in Neváda, possibly in all Spain. The house
stands at 6000 feet and the lands extend to the Veleta, 11,597 feet. It
provides grazing for goats and sheep, as well as a small herd of cattle,
and thus affords permanent employment to several herdsmen. But at
seed-time and harvest it employs as many as twenty or thirty men who,
with their dependents, live in rude esparto-thatched huts scattered over
the whole fifteen miles, and it was the numbers of these (assembled for
pay-day) that had caused us some consternation on our first arrival!
The value of the farm, we were told, is put at £8000 Spanish,
representing some £400 as yearly rental.

Two years before, wolves had become such a pest to the flocks that
strychnine was universally resorted to, with the result that to-day not
a wolf is to be seen in the whole sierra. Foxes also perished, and the
guarda, Manuel Gallegos, told us that he had thus obtained several
wild-cats (_Gatos montéses_) whose skins fetched 20 pesetas apiece as
ladies' furs. The following day we chanced on a dead marten-cat,
evidently killed by poison; and on showing it to Manuel with the remark
that that was _not_ a _gato montés_, he replied: "No, señor, that is a
_garduño; pero lo mismo da_" = "it's all the same!" Accuracy in
definition is not a strong point with Manuel, nor indeed is it with any
of our Spanish friends.

Martens are the commoner animal in Neváda; there may, nevertheless, be a
few true wild-cats, and there certainly are some lynxes. The four-footed
fauna of Neváda is sadly limited. There are neither deer of any
kind--red, roe, or fallow--nor wild-boar. Bare rocks afford no covert
for these: there is, of course, one compensating equivalent in the ibex.
Small game is equally conspicuous by its absence. Local _cazadores_
(each of whom, of course, possesses a decoy-bird--_reclamo_) enlarge on
the abundance of partridge and hares, yet we saw hardly any game whether
here on the Monachil, on the Genil, Darro, or at any of the points
whereon we have explored the Sierra Neváda. There must, however, be a
sprinkling to maintain the golden eagles and peregrines, both of which
birds-of-prey we observed.


There were small trout in the Monachil; but in Genil and Dilar (which
latter springs from the alpine Laguna de las Yeguas just under the
Picácho de la Veleta) trout ran up to a quarter-pound or thereby: the
method of capture is dynamite.

Ibex at this season (May) frequent the southern slopes of the main
chain--looking down upon the Alpuxarras--a favourite resort being the
wild rocks of Alcazába, east of Mulahacen; but in summer they are
distributed along the whole of the "high tops" and are still maintaining
their numbers as usual.

We had cherished the hope of meeting with ptarmigan and other alpine
forms in these high sierras, especially during our earlier expeditions
after ibex. We are satisfied that ptarmigan at least do not exist,
having seen no trace of them at any point; but we never saw the
snow-finch either, and it is reported to exist in numbers.

Oh! the wearying monotony of that long down-grade ride--the infinity of
vast subrounded mountains, all alike, all ugly, all sprinkled rather
than clad with low gorse and spiky broom, like millions of pincushions
with all points outwards. Then the shale--the very earth seemed
disintegrated. Red shale and blue, cinder-grey and lemon-yellow; some
schistose and sparkling, the bulk dull and dead. Here and there, amid
oceans of friable detritus, stand out great rocks of more durable
substance--solitary pinnacles, towers and turrets of fantastic form. Six
hours of this ere we reach the _Vega_ of Granada.


For ornithologists the following notes on birds observed and not already
mentioned may here be inserted:--

[Illustration: ROCK-THRUSH]

     _Blue_ and _Rock-thrushes_.--Neither abundant, but the former most
     so in the rock-gorges of lower Monachil, nesting in "pot-holes" and
     horizontal crevices of the crags. The rock-thrush is more alpine
     and confined (here as elsewhere) exclusively to the higher sierra.

     _Missel-thrushes_ among ilex-trees at 7000 feet, apparently
     nesting: a few _woodchats_ observed at same points.

     _Blackstart._--Plentiful, though less so than on San Cristobal in
     Sierra de Jerez (5000 feet). A nest in the crag over-hanging our
     bathing-place in the burn at San Gerónimo contained five eggs on
     April 28. We found others on Monachil, and _grey wagtails_ were
     also breeding at both places.

     _Bonelli's Warbler._--Arrived, and preparing to nest, end of April:
     a few _white-throats_ and _rufous warblers_ early in May. Robins
     and wrens nesting, and _nightingales_ abundant in lower

     _Eared_ and _Black-throated Wheatear_.--Ubiquitous but not
     abundant. In both these forms (as well as in the Common Wheatear)
     the males displayed a dual stage of plumage; some being completely
     adult, while others retained an immature state somewhat resembling
     their first dress (May).

     _Stonechat._--Four eggs, April 29.

     _Blackchat_ and _Crag-martin_.--Both conspicuous by their absence.

     [This applies to the higher sierra--both were observed in the lower
     Monachil--say 4000 feet.]

     _Ortolans_ (apparently just arriving during early days of May),
     with _cirl_ and _rock-buntings_, were frequent up to the limits of
     scrub-growth, say 7500 feet.

     _Rock-sparrow._--Breeding in crags on lower slopes.

     _Woodlark._--Lower hills: young on wing, end April.

     _Short-toed Lark._--Lower hills: about to nest here.

     _Crested Lark._--Lower hills: common.

     _Tawny Pipit._--Plentiful, scattered in pairs over the arid hills:
     males singing tree-pipit fashion, soaring downwards with tail
     spread overhead.

     _Great_, _Blue_, and _Cole-tits_.--Common, the latter only among
     the open woods of pine (_Pinus pinaster_).

     _Raven_ and _Chough_.--A few.

     _Hoopoe_, _Kestrel_, and _Little Owl_.--A few.

     _Partridge_ (redleg).--Scarce: a pair and a single bird observed at
     8000 feet among snow-patches and junipers.

     _Chaffinches_ and _Serins_.--First broods on wing, end April; nests
     for second broods building early in May.

     _Linnets._--Common up to scrub-limit.

     _Dippers._--Observed on Genil, Darro, Monachil, and all the rivers

     _Pied Flycatcher._--A male observed on migration, April 30.

     In the stupendous rock-gorges which enclose the lower course and
     outlet of Monachil (3500-5000 feet) are situate the breeding-places
     of the few griffon-vultures which inhabit this sierra. With them
     nest some Neophrons, and there is a "Choughery" at 4000 feet, while
     crag-martins and blackchats (not observed elsewhere), with many
     blue thrushes, find a congenial home among these giant crags.

While lunching, our goat-herd guide was pointing out rock-crannies where
wolves, from lack of brushwood, used to lie up by day, and complaining
that he could not keep poultry by reason of the marten-cats. Suddenly he
broke out in shrill and altered tones: "Tell me, Caballero," he
exclaimed, "tell me _why_ you come here from lands afar to suffer
discomfort and hardship and to undergo all these labours--why do you do
this?" We endeavoured to explain. "You see, Gregorio, that God created
all manner of animals different one from another. So also He created
mankind in many different races--all brothers, yet differing as brothers
do. You Spanish belong to the Latin race. You have many fine qualities,
some of which we lack. But you rather concern yourselves with material
things and disregard platonic study. We of British race are imbued with
desire to learn all that can be traced of Nature and her ways. Some
examine the earth itself, its formations and transformations; others the
birds or the beasts. There are those who devote their lives to studying
the beetles and ants, even the mosquitoes. Now in Spain you find none
who are interested in such matters."

Gregorio sat silent and seemed impressed; but Caraballo interjected:
"Why waste time? These people are not concerned (_entrometidos_) in such
matters." True; but Gregorio had appeared interested and intelligent?
"Si! but when folk spent lonely lives among the mountains and never see
but a petty hill-village once or twice a year, then intelligence goes to
sleep (_se pone dormido_)." Certainly five minutes later they were both
hammering away again at the customary small-talk of the by-ways.


SPANISH SPARROW (_Passer hispaniolensis_ [_sic_], Temm.)

A bird of the wild woods, never seen in towns; builds in foundations of
kites' and eagles' nests. Note that Temminck's Latin seems a bit
"rocky." The specific name might be _hispanicus_, or perhaps
_hispaniensis_, but _hispaniolensis_ never. That adjective must date
from a newer era and from a world then unknown.]





For centuries this marine lagoon--the largest sheet of water in
Spain--has, along with the forests and wastes that formerly adjoined it,
been a stronghold of wild animal-life. As early as the thirteenth
century King James I., after wresting the Kingdom of Valencia from the
Moors, and dividing its castles and estates among his nobles and
generals, selected, with shrewd appreciation, the Albufera for his
personal share of the spoils of war. For not only did the great lake
with its wild appanages form a truly regal hunting-domain, but the broad
lands intervening between the Grao of Valencia, Cullera, and the
lake-shores possessed a fabled fertility.

For six centuries the lands and waters of Albufera belonged to the
Spanish Crown. Though by edict in A.D. 1250 James I. granted free public
rights of fishing (reserving, however, one-fifth of the catch for royal
use), yet both he and succeeding monarchs ever continued to extend and
improve the amenities of the Crown Patrimony.

In State-papers of James I.'s time, where reference is made to the game,
there are expressly specified: "Deer, wild-boar, ibex, francolins,
partridges, hares, rabbits, otters, and wildfowl, besides the wealth of
fish" in the lake itself. Again, more than four centuries later, an
edict of October 31, 1671, expressly specified among resident game,
"deer, boar, ibex, and francolin." Now the francolin, although to-day
extinct in Spain, is known to have existed on the Mediterranean till
quite within modern times, and the other animals named might well have
abounded in the wild forests of those days. But the specific mention of
ibex (_twice_, with an interval of 400 years) appeared inexplicable; for
it was inconceivable that a wild-goat should ever have occupied the
low-lying _dehesas_ of Albufera. The discovery of the actual existence
of ibex in the sierras of Valencia, however (as recorded above, p. 142),
explains the paradox and also throws light on the breadth of mediæval
ideas in hunting-boundaries; since the Sierra Martés lies some forty
miles inland of Albufera.

Lying about seven miles south-east of Valencia, the lake has a
water-area some fourteen miles long by six or seven wide, its
circumference being over nine leagues. On the south, it is shut off from
the Mediterranean by a strip of pine-clad dunes--the deep green foliage
broken in pleasing contrast by intervals of bare sand, forming splashes
of gold amidst dark verdure. On all other sides the limits of the lake
are marked by yellow reeds which fringe its shores.

Its waters, dotted with the white sails of _faluchos_, present the
appearance of a small sea, a resemblance which is accentuated in stormy
weather by the height of the waves.

The lake connects by canals with various adjacent villages; while two
canals (Perillo and Perillonet) communicate with the sea, though their
mouths are blocked by locks. These locks are closed each year from
November 1 till January 1--thereby retaining the whole of the
river-waters from inland, in order to raise the interior water-level and
so flood the surrounding rice-fields.

This artificial inundation--by disseminating alluvial matter brought
down by autumnal rains over the adjacent lands--has greatly extended the
area of rice-cultivation, and, of course, equally reduced the original
water-surface. The result has been, nevertheless, immensely to augment
the enormous numbers of wildfowl which had always made the Albufera
their winter home; for no food is so attractive to ducks as rice, while,
despite its reduction, the water-area is yet ample.

During the direct tenure of the Crown, all taking of fish or fowl was
carried on subject to the regulations of successive kings and their
administrators. Ancient methods of fowling, however quaint, do not
concern us as natural historians; but two methods described in
multitudinous records throw light on altered conditions and sharpened
instincts. The first was to "push" the fowl by a line of boats towards
sportsmen in concealed posts among reeds, the ducks either swimming
complacently forward or breaking back over the encircling flotilla,
when, in each case, large numbers were killed with crossbows. To
celebrate the nuptials of Phillip III., no less than 300 boats were thus
employed. The second plan involved persuading hosts of quietly paddling
ducks to swim forward into reed-beds through which winding channels had
been cut, and over which nets were spread.

Needless to add, neither method would nowadays serve to outwit
twentieth-century wildfowl.

By the beginning of last century (about 1830), owing to the destruction
of forests and reclamation of land for grazing or rice-cultivation, the
bigger game had already disappeared; but the flights of winter wildfowl
actually increased in proportion to the extended area of rice.

The Albufera continued to be the property of the Crown of Spain from
1250 till May 12, 1865, when the Cortes decreed, and Queen Isabella II.
confirmed, its transference to the State.

At the present day the shooting on Albufera is conducted on purely
commercial and up-to-date principles. The whole area is mapped out into
sections like a chessboard, and each considerable gun-post (or
_replaza_, as it is called) is sold by auction.

These specially selected _replazas_ number thirty, and are sold for the
entire season, the prices varying from £150 for No. 1 down to about £6
for No. 30.

These thirty "reserved stalls" having been disposed of in public
competition, the remaining mid-water positions (for which the charge is
a dollar or two per day) are then apportioned by drawing lots. Finally,
licences are issued at a few pesetas to shoot from the foreshores or
from small launches stationed among the reeds at specified spots, but
which the licensee must not quit during the shooting.

The sum that finally filtered through to the State during forty years
varied between 7500 and 23,000 pesetas (say £300 to £900), a record
price being obtained in 1868, namely, 40,000 pesetas. The municipality
of Valencia is seeking to obtain the cession of the Albufera from the

The gun-posts used are either flat-bottomed boats which can be thrust
into a sheltering reed-bed; or, should no cover be available, sunken
tubs masked by reeds or rice-stalks. The posts are fixed nominally at a
rifle-shot (_tiro de bala_) apart--say 200 yards.

Regular fixed shoots take place every Saturday throughout the season,
with, however, certain small exceptions, aimed partly at securing to the
fowl a period of rest and quiet on their first arrival, and partly due
to the festivals of St. Martin and St. Catherine being public days and
free to all.

The species of ducks obtained on Albufera do not differ from those at
Daimiel. On these deeper waters pochards and the various diving-ducks
are more conspicuous than on the shallower rice-swamps of the


In contrast with the Albufera (and with Daimiel) the Calderería is not a
natural lagoon, but simply the artificial inundation of rice-grounds
(_arrozales_), such inundation being necessary for the cultivation of
that grain.

The rice-grounds of the Calderería belong to the three adjacent communes
of Sueca, Cullera, and Sollana--held in a joint peasant-proprietorship.
The flooding of the _arrozales_ was commenced in 1850, the original
object being the cultivation of rice, combined with the taking of
wildfowl in nets (_paranses_). It was, however, early seen that the
enormous quantities of wild-ducks attracted to the spot were of almost
equal value with the grain-crop, and the fame of the Calderería
attracted troops of sportsmen from all parts of Spain. This influx, for
some years, the local authorities endeavoured to check, with a view to
securing the sport for local residents--who, by the way, wanted to enjoy
this good thing at the price of a dollar a year! In 1880 it was decided
to put up to auction the different shooting-posts, or _replazas_,
without any restriction.

The whole of the _arrozales_ are accordingly divided into defined
sections called _replazas_, each perhaps 500 or 600 yards square,
forming roughly, as it were, a gigantic chessboard, though the various
_replazas_ are quite irregular in shape and size. These are sold by
public auction at a fixed date. The best positions realise as much as,
say, £80 to £100. A large rental is thus obtained yearly, some villages
receiving as much as 6000 dollars.

Since the whole shooting area is their common property, every peasant
and villager is personally interested in the value and success of the
shooting, and each thus becomes virtually a game-keeper. Hence trespass
is impossible. During autumn and up to the first shoot never a human
form intrudes upon the deserted rice-grounds; and the enormous
assemblages of wildfowl which at that season congregate thereon enjoy
uninterrupted peace and security up to mid-November. More favourable
conditions it is impossible to conceive--on the Albufera, for example,
the fowl are liable to constant disturbance by passing boats, etc.

The first shoot of the year takes place about the date just named,
November 15, and is repeated every eighth day thereafter up to the
middle of January, when the rice-grounds are run dry.

Upon the completion of the auction sales there is announced a definite
day and hour at which (and at which _only_) the lessor is permitted to
enter the rice-grounds, in order to prepare his shelter. Should he omit
or neglect this opportunity, he is not afterwards allowed to touch it
until the actual morning of the shooting.

Since there grows on rice-grounds no natural cover whatever, it is
essential to prepare some form of screen or shelter, and the reeds or
sedges required for the purpose must be brought from elsewhere.

Across each _replaza_, or conceded space, is erected a double line of
screens, two yards apart and carefully masked by a fringe of reeds or
rice-stalks. In the intervening "lane" are fixed two or more sunken tubs
wherein the shooters can sit concealed.

Hardly has midnight struck on that eventful morn than the world is
amove. Highways and byways, on land and water, are crowded by mobilising
forces; across the dark waters move forth whole squadrons of boats,
punts and launches, each one steering a course towards some far-away
_replaza_. Absolute silence reigns. No lights are allowed and no sound
shocks the mystery of night save the creaking of punt-pole or lapping of
wave--no human sound, that is, for "the night is filled with music"; the
pall overhead, the unseen wastes on every side are vocal with wildfowl
cries. Continuously the still air is rent and cleft by the rush of
myriad pinions. From right and left, before and behind, pass hurrying
hosts, their violent flight resonant as the wash of an angry sea. But
never a shot is fired. That is against the rules.

Shortly before sunrise the note of a bugle announces to hundreds of
impatient ears the signal "Open fire," and in that instant the fusillade
from far and near rages like a battle. For a solid hour, nay, for two
and sometimes three, fire continues incessant. First to become silent
are the distant guns along the shores; the minor _replazas_ slacken down
next, and by noon all save two or three of the best posts are reduced to
a desultory and dropping fire.

Then a second signal indicates that the "pick-up" may begin--up to that
moment not a gunner is permitted to leave his place. This gathering of
the game, stopping cripples, etc., induces a short renewal of the
fusillade; but soon all is silent once more, and at three o'clock a
third signal rings out, and at once every sportsman must quit the

Besides the lessees of the auction-sold _puestos_ (many of whom come
from Madrid and distant parts of Spain), there foregather on these
occasions all the local gunners; and far away beyond those sacred areas
secured by purchase there form up league-long lines of fowlers by the
distant shore; so that, between the private and privileged _puestos_ and
the free public lines outside, there may assemble in all some 3000
gunners. Hence these _tiradas_ partake of the character of a popular
festival. Yet in spite of such numbers there is not the slightest
confusion or danger, so perfect are the rules and so scrupulously are
they observed.

With so many guns scattered over wide areas no precise record of the
exact numbers secured are possible; but, according to the estimates of
those best calculated to judge, as many as 22,000 to 23,000 head (ducks
and coots) are obtained in a single morning.

The records of individual guns in the best _replazas_ run from 100 to
200 ducks gathered, and occasionally exceed those figures.

At the first shoot of the year fully 25 per cent of the spoil are coots;
but at the later shoots ducks are obtained in greater proportion, as
coots then quit the rice-grounds. These later shoots do not produce
quite such stupendous totals; but still immense numbers are bagged--ten
or twelve thousand in a morning.

As the majority of purchasers come from a distance and usually only
remain for one, or perhaps two, of the fixed shooting days, such prices
as £80 to £100 represent a fairly stiff rent.

Few mallards are obtained at the first shoot, but their numbers increase
as the winter advances. The chief species are pintail, wigeon, teal,
and shoveller, together with a few shelducks and many common and
red-crested pochards. Flamingoes and spoon-bills frequent the shallows
in small numbers.

As individual instances; from a _replaza_ that cost 900 pesetas (say
£40), and which was the _ninth_ in point of price that year, one gun
fired 700 cartridges in a single morning.

The best _replaza_--at least the most expensive (it cost 1500
pesetas)--was tenanted last winter by friends from whose experiences,
not too encouraging, we gather: At the first shoot (November 13) the
post was occupied by a single gun, who, after firing 400 shots, was
compelled to desist owing to injury to his shoulder. "I believe," he
writes, "I might have fired 1500 cartridges had I continued all day, but
was obliged to leave early. The boatmen had then gathered ninety--sixty
ducks, thirty coot--and expected to recover more."

On November 28 the post was occupied by three guns: "No day for duck, a
blazing sun so hot that the reflection from the water blistered our
faces. The ducks mounted up high in air and mostly cleared early in the
proceedings, though some were attracted by our 100 decoys. We killed
ninety-six, mostly wigeon and pochard, a few mallard and teal, besides
twenty snipe. The desideratum is a really rough day, but that at
Valencia is past praying for."

The _arrozales_ are run dry (and of course the shooting stopped) by the
middle of January. The water, in fact, is only kept up so long solely
for the sake of the shooting. So soon as its level has fallen a couple
of inches the fowl all leave directly.



Hardly will one enter a village _posada_ or a peasant's lonely cot
without observing one inevitable sign. Among the simple adornments of
the whitewashed wall and as an integral item thereof hangs a caged
redleg. And from the rafters above will be slung an antediluvian
fowling-piece, probably a converted "flinter," bearing upon its rusty
single barrel some such inscription--inset in gold characters--as,
"Antequera, 1843." These two articles, along with a cork-stoppered
powder-horn and battered leathern shot-belt, constitute the
stock-in-trade and most cherished treasures of our rustic friend, the
Spanish cazador. Possibly he also possesses a _pachón_, or heavily built
native pointer; but the dog is chiefly used to find ground-game or
quail, since the redleg, ever alert and swift of foot, defies all
pottering pursuit. Hence the _reclamo_, or call-bird, is almost
universally preferred for that purpose.

Red-legged partridges abound throughout the length and breadth of wilder
Spain--not, as at home, on the open corn-lands, but amidst the
interminable scrub and brushwood of the hills and dales, on the moory
wastes, and palmetto-clad prairie. On the latter hares, quail, and
lesser bustard vary the game.

Thither have ever resorted sportsmen of every degree--the lord of the
land and the peasant, the farmer, the Padre Cura of the parish, or the
local medico--all free to shoot, and each carrying the traitor _reclamo_
in its narrow cage. The central idea is, of course, that the _reclamo_,
by its siren song, shall call up to the gun any partridge within
hearing, when its owner, concealed in the bush hard by, has every
opportunity of potting the unconscious game as it runs towards the
decoy--two at a shot preferred, or more if possible. 'Twere unjust to
reproach the peasant-gunner for the deed; flying shots with his old
"flinter" would merely mean wasted ammunition and an empty
pot--misfortunes both in his _res angustae domi_. We have ourselves, on
African veld, where dinner depends on the gun, meted out similar measure
to strings of cackling guinea-fowl without compunction; but in Spain we
have never tried the _reclamo_, nor wish to.

That the race of redlegs should have survived it all--year in and year
out--bespeaks a wondrous fecundity, and has inspired new-born ideas of
"preservation," which have been initiated in Spain with marked success.
To this subject we refer later.

Though we have ourselves (maybe from "insular prejudice") systematically
refused to see the _reclamo_ work his treacherous rôle, yet many Spanish
sportsmen are enthusiastic over the system, which they describe as _una
faena muy interesante_, and are as proud of their call-birds as we of
our setters. The _reclamos_ may be of either sex. The cock-partridges
become past-masters of the art of calling up their wild rivals from
afar; and by a softer note the wild hen is also lured to her doom--for
the dual influences of love and war are both called into play. The male
hears the defiant challenge of battle and, all aflame, hurries by
alternative flights and runs to seek the unseen challenger. As distance
lessens the fire of each taunt increases, and, blind with passion, the
luckless champion dashes on to that fatal opening where he is aligned by
barrels peeping from the thicket. The female, with more tender purpose,
also draws near--the seductive love-note entices; but, oh! the wooing
o't--a few pellets of lead end that idyll. It is then--when either rival
or lover, it matters not which, lies low in death alongside his
cage--that the well-constituted _reclamo_ shows his fibre. So overcome
with savage joy, the narrow cage will scarce contain him as he bursts
into exultant pæons of victory. On the other hand, sullen disappointment
is exhibited by the decoy when his exploit has only resulted in a missed

In the spring the female call-note is more effective than that of the

Well-trained _reclamos_ may be worth anything from £2 up to £10.
Recently a yearly licence of ten shillings per bird has been levied.
This has either reduced their numbers, or perhaps caused them to be kept
more secretly. Formerly a _cicada_ in a tiny cage and a _reclamo_ in its
conical prison were contiguous objects in almost every doorway.

Ground-game is the special favourite of the Spanish cazador. He will
search hundreds of acres for a problematical hare, and a long day's hunt
with his trusty _pachón_ is amply rewarded by a couple or two of
diminutive rabbits about half the weight of ours, but whose speed verily
stands in inverse ratio. For the life of the Spanish rabbit is passed in
the midst of alarms; supremely conscious of soaring eagles and hawks
overhead, he never willingly shows in the open by daylight, or if forced
to it, then terror lends wings to his feet. The death of a hare,
however, represents to the cazador the climax of terrestrial triumph. In
those ecstatic moments the animal (average weight 4-1/2 lbs.) is held
aloft by the hind-legs, a subject for admiration and self-gratulation;
mentally it is weighed again and again to a chorus of soliloquising
ejaculations, "Grande como un chivo" = as big as a kid!

The quail, though extremely abundant at its passage-seasons (when in
September the Levante, or S.E. wind, blows for days together, blocking
their transit to Africa, Andalucia is crammed with accumulated quails),
yet represents but a small morsel in a culinary sense, and is swift of
wing to boot. Neither of these attributes commend its pursuit to our
friend with the rusty single-barrel; and similar reasons bear, with
increased force, on the case of snipe. These game-birds are left
severely alone--that is, with the gun.

     Bags of twenty brace of quail (and in former years of forty or
     fifty brace) may then be made where, on the wind changing next day,
     never a quail will be found.

     In spring, again, great numbers pass northward, but many remain to
     nest on the fertile _vegas_ of Guadalquivir and on the plains of
     Castile. At that season quail are chiefly taken by nets; but on
     systems so cunning and elaborate that we regret having no space for
     descriptive detail. Put briefly, in Andalucia the fowler spreads a
     gossamer-woven fabric loosely over the growing corn; then, lying
     alongside, by means of a _pito_ (an instrument that exactly
     reproduces the dactylic call-note of the quarry) induces every
     combative male within earshot either to run beneath or to alight
     precisely upon the outspread snare. So perfect is the imitation
     that quail will even run over the fowler's prostrate form in their
     search for the adversary. In Valencia living call-birds (hung in
     cages on poles) are substituted for the _pito_, and the net is more
     of a fixture--small patches of the previous autumn's crop being
     left uncut expressly to attract quail to definite points.

     The Andalucian quail frequents palmetto-scrub and is very
     local--rarely can more than two or three couple be killed in a day,
     and that only in September. Some appear then to retire to Africa,
     along with the turtle-doves--the latter a bird that surely deserves
     passing note, since few are smarter on wing or afford quicker
     snap-shooting while passing by millions through this country every

The conditions above indicated prevail over a vast proportion of rural
Spain, which thus presents small attraction to wandering gunner, however
humble his ideals.

There are other regions where the landowners, though in no sense
"preserving," yet prohibit free entry on their properties owing to
damage done--such as disturbing stock, stampeding cattle on to
cultivation in a land where no fences exist, and so on. Naturally such
ground carries more game, and subject to permission being received, fair
and sometimes excellent sport is attainable. Thus, on one such property
the tangled woods of wild olive abound with woodcock, though
difficulties are presented by the impenetrable character of the
briar-bound thickets. Were "rides" cut and clearings enlarged quite
large bags of woodcock might be secured. The rough scrubby hills
adjoining carry a fair stock of partridge, and we have often killed
forty or fifty snipe in the marshy valleys that intervene. The following
will serve as an example of three consecutive days' shooting on such
unpreserved ground (two guns--S. D. and B. F. B.):--

  |                   | Nov. 13. | Nov. 14. | Nov. 15. |  Total. |
  | Snipe             |   101    |   32     |   155    |   288   |
  | Ducks and Teal    |     2    |    9     |     3    |    14   |
  | Wild-Geese        |     3    |  ...     |   ...    |     3   |
  | Sundries          |   ...    |  ...     |     4    |     4   |
  |                   +----------+----------+----------+---------+
  |                   |   105    |   41     |   162    |   309   |

Three days in February on similar ground, but in an unfavourable season,
yielded 79 snipe, 5 woodcock, 19 golden plovers, 3 lesser bustard, a
hare, and a few sundries.

LEBRIJA, _December_ 1897.--TWO GUNS, C. D. W. AND B. F. B. (HALF-DAY)
117 snipe (mostly driven)

LEBRIJA, _November_ 16, 1904.--SAME TWO GUNS
112 snipe, 2 mallard, 1 curlew

CASAS VIEJAS, _November_ 19, 1906.--THREE GUNS (S. D., C. D. W., AND B. F. B.)
123 snipe, 1 mallard, 5 teal


Passing from the use of the _reclamo_, of which we have no personal
experience, we turn to the system practised in the Coto Doñana. Here we
always have the marisma bordering, as an inland sea, our northern
frontage. Upon that fact the system known as "_averando_" is based.

A line of six or eight guns, with sufficient beaters between, and
mounted keepers on either flank (the whole extending over, say,
half-a-mile of front), is formed up at a distance of a mile or two
inland from the marisma. On advancing, with the wings thrown forward,
and mounted men skirmishing ahead, a space comprising hundreds of acres
of scrub is thus enclosed. The partridge, running forward among the
cistus or rising far beyond gunshot, are gradually pushed down towards
the water; then, as the advancing line approaches the marisma, with the
belts of rush and sedge that border it, the work begins. The game,
unwilling to face the water, perforce come swinging back over the
shooting-line. Naturally on seeing encompassing danger in full view
behind and barring their retreat, the partridge spin up
heavenwards--higher and yet higher, till they finally pass over the guns
at a height and speed and with a pronounced curve that ensures the
maximum of difficulty in every shot offered.

In this final stage of the operation grow cork-oaks whose bulk and
evergreen foliage add further complexity for the gunner.

It illustrates the exertions made by the partridges to attain an
altitude and a speed sufficient to carry them safely over the
clearly-seen danger below, that should a bird which has succeeded in
thus running the gauntlet happen to be found after the beat is over, it
will often be too exhausted to rise again. Such tired birds are often
caught by the dogs.

As many as six or eight _averos_, as they are termed, may be carried out
during a winter's day. The walking in places is apt to be rough, through
jungle and bush--chiefly cistus and rosemary, but intermixed with
tree-heaths, brooms, and gorse--intercepted with stretches of water
which must be waded without wincing, for it is essential that each man
(gun or beater) maintains correctly his allotted position in the

Naturally in a sandy waste, devoid of corn or tillage of any kind,
partridge cannot be numerous. They are, moreover, subject to terrible
enemies in the eagles, kites, and hawks of every description; while
lynxes, wild-cats, foxes, and other beasts-of-prey take daily and
nightly toll; then in spring their eggs are devoured by the big lizards,
by harriers, mongoose, and magpies in thousands. We have recently
endeavoured to increase their numbers by grubbing up 300 acres of scrub
and cultivating wheat. But here again Nature opposes us. Deer break down
the fences, ignore our guards armed with lanterns and blank cartridge,
trample down more than they eat, and the rabbits finish the rest!
Moreover, in wet seasons the ground is flooded, the crops destroyed;
while, if too dry, the seed will not germinate, and all the time the
unkillable brushwood comes and comes again.

Forty or fifty brace represent average days; though it is fair to add
that they are but few who fully avail the fleeting opportunities at
those back-swerving dots in the sky.


The cistus plains abound with rabbits. One sees them by scores moving
ahead, but just beyond gunshot range, which they calculate to a nicety.
Others dart from underfoot to disappear in an instant in the cover. Few
are shot while walking; but some pretty sport is obtainable by short
drives, say a quarter-mile. The line of keepers and beaters ride round
to windward, encircling some well-stocked bush; then slowly and noisily,
with frequent halts, advance down-wind--the rabbit is as susceptible of
scent as a deer. Meanwhile the dogs are having a rare time of it
hustling the bunnies forward. The guns are placed each to command some
clear spot, for where scrub grows thick nothing can be seen. A momentary
glimpse is all one gets, and snap-shooting essential. The most
favourable spots are where a strip of open ground lies immediately
behind the guns. The rabbits fairly fly this, a dozen at a time, and at
speed that suggests some one having set fire to their tails.

In days of phenomenal bags, our Spanish totals read humble enough. We
frequently kill a hundred or more rabbits in two or three short drives,
besides such partridge as may also have been enclosed. Were a whole day
devoted to rabbits alone, much greater numbers would of course result.
But having such variety of resource at disposal (to say nothing of
difficulty in disposing of large quantities), the _conejete_ rarely
receives more than an hour or two's attention.

Hares (_Lepus mediterraneus_), common all over Spain, are rather more
numerous in the marisma than on the drier grounds. They have indeed
developed semi-aquatic habits, in times of flood swimming freely from
island to island and making arboreal "forms" in the half-submerged
samphire-bush. Should the whole become submerged, the hares betake
themselves to the main shore, and on such occasions, with two guns, we
have shot a dozen or so on a drive. These small Spanish hares are
marvellously fleet of foot, especially when an almost equally
fleet-footed _podenco_ is in full chase over ground as flat and bare as
a bowling-green.

In these hares the females are larger and greyer in colour than the
males. Their irides are yellow, with a small pupil, whereas in the male
the eye is hazel and the pupil large. The fur of the latter is bright
chestnut in hue, especially on hind-quarters and legs, which frequently
show irregular splashes of white. The lower parts are purest white, and
along the clean-cut line of demarcation the colour contrasts are the
strongest. Long film-like hairs grow far beyond the ordinary fur on
their bodies, and the tails are longer and carried higher than in our
British species.


  Males          4-1/2   4-1/2   4-1/2   4-1/2   4-1/2 lbs., deadweight
  Females        4-3/4   5       5-1/2   5-1/2   5-1/2 lbs., deadweight


  Ten couples 3 3 3 3-1/4 3-1/4 3-1/4 3-1/4 3-1/2 3-1/2 3-3/4 lbs., clean

These rabbits differ from the home-breed not only in their smaller size,
but in the colder grey of their fur and large transparent ears.


[Illustration: THE DAY'S RESULTS.


Hitherto shooting over great areas of rural Spain has been practised
under conditions absolutely natural--almost pristine. The game on
mountain, moor, or marsh is not only free to any hunter who possesses
the skill to capture it, but it is left to fight unaided its struggle
for existence against hosts of enemies, feathered, furred, and scaled,
the like of which has no equivalent in our crowded isles; and which work
terrible havoc, each in its own way, among the milder members of
creation. The presence of so many fierce raptorials, however (though it
ruin the "bag"), adds for a naturalist an incomparable charm to days
spent in Spanish wilds. Alas! that even here those pristine conditions
should already appear to be doomed, that every savage spirit must be
quenched, till nothing save the utilitarian survive! The following notes
on game-preservation in Spain indicate the beginning of the change.


Game-preservation, in the stricter sense in which it is practised in
England, was unknown in Spain till within our own earlier days. But now
many great estates yield bags of partridge that may challenge comparison
with results obtained elsewhere.

Whether those results equal the best of the crack partridge-manors in
England or not we do not inquire. It is immaterial and irrelevant. No
comparison is either desirable or possible where natural conditions and
difficulties differ fundamentally. But the result at least throws a ray
of reflected light upon the energy and capacity of the Spanish
gamekeeper, who, under extraordinary difficulties, has aided and enabled
his employers to produce conditions which only a few years ago would
have appeared impossible. It should be added that these estates which
now realise surprising results have, in most instances, belonged to the
same owners during generations, though not till towards the end of last
century was any special care bestowed upon the game.

       *       *       *       *       *

The estate of Mudéla, in La Mancha, the property of the Marquis de
Mudéla, Count of Valdelagrana, stands unrivalled in a sporting sense.
Its extent is approximately 80,000 acres, and the whole abounds with
red-legged partridge, rabbits, and hares. A dozen consecutive
driving-days can be enjoyed, each on fresh ground, and 1000 partridges
are often here secured by seven guns, driving, in a day.

There is here quite a small proportion of corn-land or tillage, the
greater portion consisting of the rough pasturage, interspersed with
patches of scattered brush and palmetto, which is characteristic of
southern Spain.

The great results achieved (for 1000 partridges a day, all wild-bred
birds, can only so be described) are due to systematic preservation,
including the trapping of noxious animals, furred or feathered, and the
payment of rewards to the peasantry for each nest hatched-off--in short,
by efficient protection of the game, with the destruction of its
enemies. In hot dry summers it is necessary to provide both water and
food to the game.

Next to Mudéla, the most celebrated sporting properties include those of
Lachár and Tajarja, both in the province of Granada, and belonging to
the Duke of San Pedro de Galatino; Trasmulas in the same province
belonging to the Conde de Agrela, and Ventosilla, the property of the
Duke of Santona in the province of Toledo. There should also be named
Daranézas in the last-named province, the Marquis de la Torrecilla; and
Daramezán (Toledo), the Marquis de Alcanices.

At Malpica in Toledo, the estate of the Duke of Arión, there were
killed, on the occasion of a visit of King Alfonso XIII., a total in one
day of 1655 head (partridges, hares, and rabbits), of which His Majesty
was credited with 600.

We extract the following from the Madrid newspaper _La Epoca_, January
22, 1908:--

     At El Rincon, Navalcarnero, near Madrid, the King, with thirteen
     other guns, were the guests of the Marquesa de Manzanedo on January
     20. Eight drives were completed, 350 beaters being employed. The
     total recovered numbered 1400 head, of which 241 fell to the King's
     gun. His Majesty continued shooting with astonishing brilliancy
     even while darkness was already setting in, and wound up with four
     consecutive right-and-lefts when one could scarce see even a few
     yards away. King Alfonso killed 97 partridge, 31 hares, 98 rabbits,
     and 15 various--double the number that fell to the next highest

Most of the places named are capable of yielding from 500 to 800 and
even 1000 partridge in a day's driving, besides other game.




We have no British equivalent for this generic term, applied in Spain to
a group of creatures, chiefly belonging to the canine, feline, and
viverrine families, that deserve a chapter to themselves. The Spanish
word _Alimañas_ includes the lynxes and wild-cats, foxes, mongoose,
genets, badgers, otters, and such like. It might therefore be rendered
as "vermin," but surely only in the benevolent sense--as it were, a term
of endearment. We have preferred the expression "minor beasts of chase,"
though it may be objected that such are not, in fact, beasts of chase.
We reply that hardly any wild animals are harder to secure in fair
contest or more capable of testing the venatic resource of the hunter.

For these animals are beasts-of-prey, and that fact alone implies
nothing less than that in their very nature and life-habits they must be
more cunning, more astute, than those other creatures (mostly game) on
which they are ordained to subsist. Moreover, being nocturnals, their
senses of sight, scent, and hearing all far exceed our own, and they
possess the enormous advantage that they see equally well in the dark.

Wild Spain, with her 56 per cent of desert or sparsely peopled regions,
is a paradise for predatory creatures--alike the furred and the
feathered--and _alimañas_ abound whether in the bush and scrub of her
torrid plains, or amid the heavier jungle of her mountain-ranges.

Numerous as they are, yet these night-rovers rarely come in evidence
unless one goes expressly in search of them. In regular shooting, with
organised parties, they are more or less ignored, or rather they pass
unseen through the lines, moving so silently and stealthily and always
choosing the thickest covert. With guns from 100 to 200 yards apart and
upwards, each intent on the larger game, the secretive _alimañas_ easily
get through--indeed, wolves and even big boars, though the crash of
brushwood may be heard, often pass unseen.

Many unconventional days have the authors enjoyed in express pursuit of
these keen-eyed creatures--call them vermin if you will. There are four
methods which we have found effective:

1. Short drives of individual jungles where sufficient open spaces occur
to leeward to enable the game to be seen.

2. Long drives of extensive jungles, converging on guns placed at points
that either command the probable lines of retreat, or cover some other
favourite resort wherein the quarry is likely to seek refuge.

3. Calling--in Spanish, _chillando_.

4. Watching at dawn or dusk, either with or without a "drag."

       *       *       *       *       *

1. The first plan is, of course, the simplest; but it must be borne in
mind that this is essentially close-quarters' work--hence the utmost
silence is necessary. Horses must be picketed at least a mile back, for
the clank of hoof on rock or the clashing of the bucket-like Spanish
stirrups in bush will awaken even a dormouse. All proceed on foot; and
the whole plan having been arranged beforehand, not a word need now be
spoken, each gun taking his allotted place in silence. Guns may be as
far as 100 yards apart (since mould-shot is effective up to nearly that
range) and each man should station himself looking into the beat, so as
to command the intervening "opens," while himself absolutely concealed
and still as a stone god, since he is now competing with some of the
keenest eyes on earth. All the cats, moreover, come on so stealthily,
making good their advance yard by yard, that quite possibly a great
tawny lynx may be coolly surveying your position ere your eye has caught
the slightest movement ahead.

Nothing emphasises the amazing stealth of these silent creatures more
than such incidents: when suddenly you find, within twenty yards, a wild
beast, standing nearly two feet at shoulder, slowly approaching through
quite thin bush; how, in wonder's name, did it get so near unseen?
Foxes, as a rule, come bundling along with far less precaution and no
such vigilant look-out ahead, though they will instantly detect the
least _movement_ in front. A fox will often appear so deep in thought
as to be absolutely thunderstruck when he finds himself face to face
with a gun at six yards distance. In direst consternation he fairly
bounds around, describing a complete circle of fur; whereas a cat in
like circumstance merely deflects her course with coolest deliberation
and never a sign of alarm or increase of speed. But within six more
yards she will have vanished from view--covert or none. Adepts all are
the cats, alike in appearing one knows not whence, and in disappearing
one knows not how.

Yonder goes a fox, slowly trotting along below the crest, in his
self-sufficient, nonchalant style. His upstanding fur, long bushy brush,
and swollen neck appear to double his bulk and lend him quite an
imposing figure. But let a rifle-ball sing past his ears or dash up a
cloud of the sand below--what a transformation! One hardly now
recognises the long lean streak that whips up and over the ridge.

A handsome trophy is the Spanish lynx, especially those more brightly
coloured examples sparsely spotted with big black splotches arranged,
more or less, in interrupted lines. The ear-tufts--indeed in adults the
extreme tips of the ears themselves--point inwards and backwards; and
the narrow irides are pale yellow (between lemon and hazel), the pupil
being full, round, and black, nearly filling the circle. In the wild-cat
the pupil is a thin upright, set in a cruel pale-green iris.

We have tried FIRE as a means of securing the smaller _alimañas_, such
as mongoose, but it is seldom a thicket or _mancha_ can be so completely
isolated as to leave no line of escape. The animals, moreover, are
astute enough to retire under cover of the clouds of smoke that roll
away to leeward.

2. LONG DRIVES, extending over, say, a couple of miles of brush-wood
(which may contain half-a-dozen patches of thicker jungle, all
separate), give wide scope for skilled fieldcraft and demand no small
local knowledge. The first essential is "an eye for a country." There
are men to whom this faculty is denied; some seem incapable of acquiring
it. Others, again, appear correctly to diagnose even a difficult
country, with its chances, almost at a first experience. The favoured
haunts of game, together with their accustomed lines of retreat when
disturbed, must be studied. Each day, though engaged on other pursuit,
one's eye should be reading those lessons that are written in "spoor,"
and noting each commanding point and salient angle or other local
"advantage" in the terrain.

Such drives necessarily occupy more time; moreover, the precise lines of
entry along which game may approach are less restricted--hence follows
an even greater demand on that vigilance already emphasised. But to the
hunter the mental gratification, the sense of dominion achieved, is
ample reward when his deep-laid plans succeed and when along one or more
of his ambushed lines the cunning carnivorae pursue an unsuspecting

Nature herself may assist by signs which set the expectant hunter yet
more instantly alert. A distant kite suddenly swerving or checking its
flight has seen _something_. The chattering of a band of magpies may
only mean that they have struck a "find," say a dead rabbit--_tacitus
pasci si posset corvus_, etc. But it may easily indicate a moving
nocturnal, and such signs should never be ignored. Similarly a covey of
partridges springing with continued cackling is a certain token of the
presence of an enemy; while a terrified-looking rabbit, with staring eye
and ears laid back, means that an interview is then instantly impending.

It may be necessary (as where a desert-stretch flanks the beat) to place
"stops" far outside. These are as important as in a grouse-drive, but
quite tenfold more difficult to array.

In these more extensive operations the lynx, in evading the guns, is
sometimes intercepted by the advancing pack behind. Then, if by luck the
cat can be forced into the open, she goes off at fine speed in great
bounds, as a leopard covers the veld, and (the horses in this case being
picketed close by) may sometimes be "tree'd" or run to bay in some
distant thicket. In that case the assistance of the hunters is needed,
for a lynx at bay will hold-up a whole pack of _podencos_, sitting erect
on her haunches with her back to the bush and dealing half-arm blows
with lightning speed. These _podencos_, it should be explained, are not
intended to close, since all high-couraged dogs, we find, meet a speedy
death from the tusks of wild-boars.

When pressed in the open, we have seen a lynx deliberately pass through
deep water that lay in her line of flight.

3. CALLING.--The coney was ever a puny folk, yet in Tarshish he thrives
and multiplies amidst numberless foes aloft and alow. From the heavens
above fierce eyes directing hooked beaks and clenched talons survey his
every movement; on the earth lynxes, cats, and foxes subsist chiefly on
him; while below ground foumart and mongoose penetrate his farthest
retreats year in and year out. He seems to possess absolutely no
protection, yet he endures all this, supports his enemies, and
increases, ever, to appearance, gaily unconscious of the perils that
beset him. Once, however, let misfortune overtake the rabbit, and his
cry of distress brings instant response--from scrub and sky, from
thicket and lurking lair, assemble the fiercer folk, each intent on his

It is upon this fact that the system of calling, or, in Spanish,
_chillando_, is based. The instrument is simple. A crab's claw, or the
green bark of a two-inch twig slipped off its stalk, will, in the lips
of an adept, produce just such a cry of cunicular distress. Armed with
this, and observing the wind, one takes post concealed by bush but
commanding some open glade in front. The most favourable time is dawn
and dusk--the latter for choice, since then predatory animals are waking
up hungry. The first "call" by our Spanish companion almost startles by
its lifelike verisimilitude. At short intervals these ringing
distress-signals resound through the silent bush; if no response
follows, we try another spot. First, a distant kite or buzzard, hearing
the call, comes wheeling this way, but naturally the birds-of-prey from
their lofty point of view detect the human presence and pursue their
quest elsewhere. The rabbits themselves, from some inexplicable cause,
are among the first to respond.

Within that opposite wall of jungle you detect a furtive movement;
presently with jerky, spasmodic gait a rabbit darts out; it sits
trembling with staring eyes and ears laid aback; another rolls over on
its side and performs strange antics as though under hypnotic influence.
In two minutes you have a _séance_ of mesmerised rabbits.

My companion touches me on the arm; away beyond, and half behind him
(almost on the wind), stands a fox intently gazing. Before the gun can
be brought to bear it is necessary to step round the keeper's front, and
one expects that that first movement will mean the instant disappearance
of the vulpine. Not so! There he stands, statuesque, while the
manoeuvre is executed. Is he, too, hypnotised? On one occasion the
authors, standing shoulder to shoulder with the keeper behind them, were
only concealed by a single bush in front. At the third or fourth call a
wild-cat sprang from the thicket beyond, fairly flew the intervening
thirty yards at a bound, and landed in the single bush at our feet
(precisely where the "rabbit" should have been) before a gun could be
raised. What a marvellous exhibition of wild hunting!

In this case, too, we had had notice in advance by the noisy rising of a
pair of partridges sixty yards away in the bush. That cat scaled 12-1/2
lbs. dead-weight.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the beasts-of-prey can be secured in this manner. February is their
pairing-season; but the best time for "calling" is a month or so
later--in March and April--when young rabbits appear and when the
_alimañas_ themselves have their litters to feed.


(The spectator is presumed to be lying on his back!)]

Feathered raptores, such as eagles, kites, and buzzards, can also be
obtained by "calling," but, as above indicated, their loftier position
enables them to see the guns, and it is necessary in their case to
prepare a covered shelter in which one can stand, concealed from above.

4. WATCHING.--The fourth and last system brings one face to face with
wild nature in her nocturnal aspects. Such aspects (to the majority of
mankind) are unknown; but night-work, whether at home, in Africa, or in
Spain, has always strongly appealed to the writers. Wild creatures do
not go to bed at night like lazy men; on the contrary, night is the
period of fullest activity for a large proportion of God's creation,
whether of fur or feather. To form an intimate personal acquaintance
(however imperfect) with these, the comfort of the blankets must be

Where stretches of open country border or intersect jungle, or lie
between the nocturnal hunting-grounds of carnivorae and the thickets
where they lie-up by day, there one may enjoy hours of intense interest
in watching what passes under the moon. In the Coto Doñana we have many
such spots, some within an hour or two's ride of our shooting-lodges.
Here, when the moon shines full, and the soft south wind blows towards
the dark leagues of cistus and tree-heath behind us, we line-out three
or four guns, each looking outwards across glittering sand-wastes on his
front. There, on smooth expanse, one may detect every moving thing.
Those shadowy forms that seem to skim the surface without touching it
are stone-curlews, and beyond them is a less mobile object, whose
identity none would guess by sight. That is a _tortuga_, or
land-tortoise, tracing its singular double trail. Across the sand passes
a bigger shadow--rabbits and the rest all vanish. What was that shadow?
A strange growl overhead, and you see it is an eagle-owl that has
scattered the ghost-like groups. Now there is something on the far
skyline ahead--something that moves and puzzles--four mobile objects
that were not there five seconds ago. These prove to be the ears of two
hinds; presently the spiky horns of a stag appear behind them, and the
trio move slowly across our front, stopping to nibble some tuft of bent.

None of these are what we seek, but as dawn approaches you may (or may
not) detect the form of some beast-of-prey making for its lair in the
jungle behind you. Foxes, as their habit is, trot straight in; the lynx
comes with infinite caution. Should some starveling bush survive a
hundred yards out, she may stop, squatting on her haunches, half-hidden
in its shade. You can see there is something there, but the distance is
just beyond a sure range, and seldom indeed will that cat come nearer.
However low and still you have laid the while, she will, by some subtle
feline intuition, have gleaned (perhaps half unconsciously even to
herself) a sense of danger. When day has dawned, you will find the
retiring spoor winding backwards behind some gentle swell that leads to
an unseen hollow beyond--and to safety. Truly you agree when the keeper
says, "Lynxes see _best_ in the dark."

       *       *       *       *       *

In a wide country it is of course purely fortuitous should any of these
animals approach within shot. To assure that result with greater
certainty we have adopted the plan of a "drag." Two or three hours
before taking our positions (that is, shortly after midnight), a keeper
rides along far outside on the sand, trailing behind his horse a bunch
of split-open rabbits. Upon arriving outside the intended position of
each gun, he directs his course inwards, thus dragging the bait close up
to the post. Then taking a fresh bunch of rabbits, he repeats the
operation to each post in turn. Thus every incoming beast must strike
the scented trail at one point or another. Occasionally one will follow
the drag right into the expectant gun, more often (the animals being
full at that hour) it will leave the trail after following it for a
greater or less distance. Some ignore it altogether. This applies to all
sorts. The sand, as day dawns, forms a regular lexicon of spoor. One can
trace each movement of the night. There go the plantigrade tracks of a
badger, and hard by the light-footed prints of mongoose, mice, and an
infinity of minor creatures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Foxes most frequently capture their prey in fair chase, running them
down, as shown by the double spoor ending in blood. Lynxes never chase;
they kill by stalking, and a crouching spoor ends in a spring. Both
these habitually carry away or bury all they do not devour on the spot.

From the end of January onwards (that being the pairing-season) foxes
may often be seen abroad by daylight in couples, and in such case,
provided _they_ are _seen first_, are easily brought-up by "calling."
Lynxes never show-up so by daylight, but an hour or two before dawn
their weird wailing cries may be heard in the bush from mid-February

       *       *       *       *       *

The mongoose is perhaps the least easily secured, being absolutely
nocturnal and running so low (like a giant weasel) as to be almost
invisible, however slight the covert. It is, moreover, an adept at
concealment, and will scarcely be detected even at thirty yards if
stationary. The best way to secure specimens of badger and mongoose is
by digging-out their breeding-earths or warrens. An initial difficulty
is to find the earths amid leagues of scrub or rugged mountain-sides;
and even when located it may be necessary to burn off half an acre of
brushwood before the spade can be brought into action. From one set of
earths we have succeeded in digging out five big mongoose alive. That
night, though confined in strong wooden cases, they gnawed their way
out, and were never seen more, albeit their prison was on board a yacht
anchored in mid-stream and half-a-mile from shore.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few such days and nights as these teach that wild Spain cherishes
other animals besides the game, to the full as interesting and even more
difficult to secure.

If we are asked (as we often have been before) why we molest creatures
which have no value when killed, we reply that almost without exception
our Spanish specimens have gone to enrich one collection or another,
public or private, and that during the year in which we write this the
authors spent a fortnight in obtaining a series of these animals for our
National Museum at South Kensington, with the following results:--[56]

     Four lynxes--two males, 30-1/4 and 31 lbs.; two females, 18-1/2 and
     23 lbs.--representing both types, namely, (1) that with many small
     spots, and (2) the handsomer form with fewer large and conspicuous

     One wild-cat (an exceptional specimen)--a male of 15 lbs., with
     yellow irides instead of the usual cold, cruel, pale-green eyes
     like an unripe gooseberry. This cat was what the Spanish keepers
     describe as _rayado_ = banded, _i.e._ the spots are arrayed in
     regular series or interrupted bands rather than scattered
     promiscuously. This race is distinguished as _gato clavo_, the
     ordinary wild-cat being known as _gato romano_.

     Several other wild-cats (_Gatos romanos_)--males weighing from
     10-3/4 to 12-1/2 lbs.; females weighing from 7-1/2 to 8-1/4 lbs.

     In the sierras wild-cats run heavier than this, for we have killed
     in Moréna a wild-cat that scaled 7-3/4 kilos, or upwards of 17 lbs.

     Two badgers--male, 17-1/2 lbs.; female, 14-1/2 lbs. These Spanish
     badgers are blacker in the legs than British examples, and their
     fore-claws are more powerfully developed, possibly in this case
     through living in sand. Really big males weigh nearly double the

     Ten foxes (_Vulpes melanogaster_)--six males weighing 13-3/4, 14,
     15 16-1/2, 16-1/2, 17 lbs.; four females weighing 11, 11-3/4,
     13-1/2, 14 lbs.

     Besides "small deer," such as rats and mice, voles, moles, and
     dormice, to say nothing of a whole red-stag and a whole wild-boar!


_March 2, 1907._--_Chillando_ this evening at the Oyillos del Tio Juan
Roque, a big grey sow with numerous progeny came trotting up to within
a few yards--whether to devour the supposed rabbit or merely from
curiosity was not apparent. On realising the situation, she turned and
dashed off with an indignant snort, followed by her striped brood, but
did not go far before stopping (like Lot's wife) to listen and look

Later, at the Sabinal, just upon dusk, a fox appeared about 120 yards
away, down-wind. Though quite aware of our presence, both by scent and
sight, he deliberately sat down on his haunches to watch; but no charm
of the _chillar_ would induce a nearer approach, and a rifle-ball
whistling within an inch or two of his ears broke the spell.

On May 16, 1910, a mongoose responded with unusual alacrity to the first
"call," running up within twenty yards. This was an adult male and
weighed 8-1/2 lbs.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have endeavoured to rear some of these animals in captivity. The
young wild-cats are by far the most intractable--perfect fiends of
savage fury, quite unamenable to civilisation. The lynx at least affects
a measure of subjection, but remains always unreliable and treacherous
in spirit. The story of how one of our tame lynxes attacked and nearly
killed a poor _lavandera_ is told in _Wild Spain_, p. 447.





This mountain-system may be regarded as an outlying eastern extension of
the Sierra Neváda. Except at the "Ultimo Suspiro del Moro" there is no
actual break, and both in physical features and in fauna the two ranges
coincide, while differing essentially from the Sierra Moréna, their
immediate neighbour on the north. The Serranía de Ronda, nevertheless,
displays distinctive characters which entitle it to a place in this
book; it forms, moreover, our "Home-mountains," lying within a
thirty-mile ride eastward of Jerez.

[Illustration: PINSÁPO PINE]

The outstanding feature is the _massif_--or, in Spanish, _Nucléo
Central_--of San Cristobal, which rises to 5800 feet, and stands head
and shoulders above its surrounding satellites, an imposing pile of cold
grey rock and perpendicular precipice.[57]

Nestling beneath its western bastions lies the Moorish hamlet of
Benamahoma, whence, housed in friendly quarters, we have oft explored
this hill. The route to the summit (which may almost be reached on
donkey-back) is by the southern face; for summits, however, merely as
such, we have no sort of affection, and never expend one ounce of energy
in gaining them, unless they chance to aid a main objective. As to
"views," we are sure to enjoy these from other points quite as

New-fallen snow powdered the ground and mantled the surrounding peaks as
we rode out of Benamahoma on March 20. But the sun shone bright, and
from a poplar softly warbled a rock-bunting--with pearl-grey head,
triple banded. Serins and kitty-wrens sang from the wooded slopes, and
we observed long-tailed tits, with cirl-buntings and woodlarks. A grey
wagtail by the burnside was already acquiring the black throat of

[Illustration: ROCK-BUNTING (_Emberiza cia_)]

The tortuous track writhes upwards through sporadic cultivation--the
angles at which these hill-men can work a plough amaze, beans and
_garbanzos_ grow on slopes where no ordinary biped could maintain a
foothold. The industry of mountaineers (here as elsewhere in Spain) is
remarkable. Each tillable patch, however small or abrupt, is reduced to
service, its million stones removed and utilised to form the foundation
for a tiny era, or threshing-floor (like a shelf on the hillside),
whereon the hard-won crop is threshed with flails. Higher out on the
hills rude stone sheilings are erected to serve as shelters during
seed-time and harvest. Not even the hardy Norseman puts up a tougher
tussle with nature to wrest her fruits from the earth.

Presently one enters forests of oak and ilex with strange misshapen
trunks, stunted and hollow, but decorated with prehensile convolvulus
and mistletoe--many three-fourths dead, mere shells with cavernous
interior, sheltering tufts of ferns. Here, instead of destroying the
whole tree, charcoal-burners pollard and lop; huge lateral limbs are
amputated as they grow, and the result, during centuries, produces these
monstrosities, rarely exceeding twenty feet in height and surmounted by
a delicate superstructure of branches totally disproportionate. No more
fantastic forms can be conceived than these bloated boles, wrestling, as
it were, with death, yet still able to transmit life to the
superstruction above. They recall the Baobab trees of Central Africa. In
neither case is the effect absolutely displeasing, albeit grotesque.
Both may be described as deformed rather than disfigured.

On rounding the northern shoulder of the mountain, suddenly the whole
scene changes. Instead of limb-lopped trunks, one is faced by the dark
foliage of the pinsápo pine--a forest monarch whose stately growth
strikes one's eye as something conspicuously new. And new indeed it is.
For the range of this great Spanish pine (_Abies pinsapo_) is limited
not merely to Spain, but actually to this one mountain-range, the
Serranía de Ronda--there may exist more remarkable examples of a
restricted distribution, but none certainly that we have come across.
The pinsápo, moreover, affects even here but three spots: first, San
Cristobal itself; secondly, the Sierra de las Nieves, a mountain plainly
visible some thirty miles to the eastward (all its northern corries
darkened by pinsápos); and, lastly, the Sierra Bermeja on the
Mediterranean, distant thirty to thirty-five miles S.S.E. On each of the
three the pinsápo grows in forests; on adjacent hills we have observed
one or two scattered groups--otherwise this pine is found nowhere else
on earth.

A curious character of the pinsápo is that it only grows on the northern
faces of the hills.

The tree possesses remarkable personality. Though one sees a chance
specimen grow up straight as a spruce, yet its normal tendency is to
"flatten out" on top, whence three, four, even a dozen independent
"leaders" spring away, each with equal vigour, and finally form as many
distinct vertical trunks, say six or eight separate pines all arising
from a common base.

To see the pinsápo in its pristine majesty and massiveness, one must
ascend beyond the range of charcoal-burners; up there flourish gigantic
specimens, some of which we measured (by rough pacing) to encompass ten
to fifteen yards of base. These trees grow from screes of broken
rock--great blocks of white dolomite; but the deep-searching tap-roots
penetrate to black alluvia beneath. Other huge pines found roothold in
walls of living rock. The three sketches, made from individual trees
(presumed for the purpose to be divested of foliage), illustrate the
singular multiple growth described.

The foliage of the pinsápo differs from ordinary pine-needles, being
rather a series of stiff outstanding spines analogous to those of the
Araucaria. They display a crimson efflorescence in March, developing
into clusters of red cones by April, and ripening in August to

[Illustration: PINSÁPO PINES (_Abies pinsapo_)

Diagram to show trunk-plan, divested of foliage. Girth at base 30 to 45

The pinsápo-forests are subject to terrible destruction alike by hatchet
and fire, tempest and avalanche. Forest-fires sweep whole glens; while
rock-slides overwhelm and uproot even the biggest trees by scores. Few
scenes that we have witnessed are more eloquent of nature's violence
than these traces of an avalanche. Mammoth skeletons, weird and
weather-blanched, protrude by the hundred from chaotic rock-ruin--some
still upright, others overthrown or half submerged in debris, yet
stretching great white arms heavenward, as though in agonised appeal.
The distant roar of an avalanche is a not infrequent sound throughout
the mountain-land.

The pinsápo-forests of San Cristobal present one of the most striking
mountain-landscapes in Andalucia. For some three miles they cover in a
semicircle the whole scooped-out amphitheatre of the mountain-side.
Their dark-green masses, contrasted against the white rocks on which
they grow--and in winter with yet whiter snow--cluster upwards, tier
above tier, from below the 3000-feet level away to the extreme summit of
the knife-edged ridge above, say 5500 feet. Would that we could depict
the beauty of the scene.

[Illustration: CROSSBILL

Wrestling with pine-cone.]

Through these dark forests a track winds, and here again the evident
industry of the mountaineers surprised. At intervals along this pathway
lay great baulks of pine-timber (sleepers, planks, and poles), dressed
and piled ready for transport. That such loads could be carried hence on
donkey-back, or, were such possible, that the labour could be repaid,
appeared incredible--so distant are markets and so heavy the cargo.[59]

We had hoped to find in these forests a home of the Spanish crossbill,
but not a sign of it rewarded our search. To avail the ripe fruit, the
crossbill would need to nest in autumn, and that (wide as is the
latitude of its breeding-season) is too much even for the _Pico-tuerto_.
An interesting species found here in March was the cole-tit (_Parus
pinsapinensis?_), which climbed around us, swinging from twigs within a
yard as we sat at lunch. Blackstarts abounded, also firecrests. The
latter have a pretty habit of engaging in aërial struggle--whether for
love or war--both falling locked together to earth, as blue-tits do. On
one such occasion a male, ere taking wing, spread out his flaming crown
fanlike, as it were a halo.

Beyond the pinsápo-forests succeeds a region of wiry esparto-grass, up
which we climbed to yet more sterile zones above. Here cruel rocks are
adorned with a dwarf sword-broom, steel-tipped, a thorny berberis, and
vicious pin-cushion gorse that protects its newer growths (not that
there is anything tender about it at any stage) by a delicate grey
tracery that deceives a careless eye. For that subtle tracery is, in
fact, the indurated malice of last year's spikey armour. No handhold
does nature here vouchsafe.

Curiously, we noticed woodlarks up here, while blackstarts abounded as
titlarks on a Northumbrian moor. In an ivy-clad gorge at 4200 feet we
found two nearly completed nests in rock crevices: one occupied a
vertical fissure that needed quite twelve inches of packed moss to
provide a foundation, the cup-shaped nest being superimposed. But it was
not till a month later (April 24) that these birds were laying in

At 5000 feet the "Piorno" (_Spartius scorpius_) began to grow, a
red-stemmed shrub, known locally as _Leche-interna_, and on breaking it,
the twigs are found to be filled with a milky fluid that justifies the
name. The piorno we have never found growing except on the high tops of
Grédos and other lofty sierras, where it forms a chief food of the
Spanish ibex, its presence being, in fact, always associated with that
of the wild-goat. Alas! that here, on San Cristobal, that association
has been severed--another instance of the heedless improvidence that
marks the Spanish race. Fifteen years ago they destroyed the last ibex;
fifteen years hence they will have destroyed the last pinsápo!

Once for brief moments a broad-horned head, peering over the topmost
crags, lent joyous hope that after all an ibex or two might yet survive.
But the intruder proved to be one of the dark-brown rams of _Ovis
bidens_ that, in semi-feral state, roam these peaks.

San Cristobal itself now holds no big game; though ibex are found but a
few leagues to the eastward, and, we rejoice to add (on certain sierras
where protection is afforded them), begin to increase. The Serranía de
Ronda, like Neváda, of which it is an extension, has never held either
boar or deer; both are too rocky and precipitous to shelter those
animals, though both boar and roe are found in the lower hills towards

       *       *       *       *       *

Just below the highest peak, the Cumbre de San Cristobal, lies a curious
little alpine meadow. It is only forty yards square, and while we
rested, lunching, on unaccustomed level a golden eagle swept overhead,
chased and hustled by a mob of choughs that colonise these crags. Ten
minutes later a lammergeyer afforded a second glorious spectacle,
speeding through space on pinions rigidly motionless, but strongly
reflexed, as is usual on a descending gradient. Only once, as far as eye
could follow, was one great wing gently deflected, and that merely from
the "wrist."


Gliding high on down-grade with rigid reflexed wings, outer primaries
in-drawn, fan-wise.]

On reaching a crest above, two lammergeyers appeared, the first carrying
a long stick or thin bone athwart his beak; the second held a course
direct to where L. sat on the ridge, coming so near that the rustle of
huge wings sounded menacingly and the white head, golden breast, and
hoary shoulders showed clear as in a picture. We expected to find the
eyrie somewhere hard by, but in this we were mistaken--once more. It was
not on that hill, nor the next; but on a third![60]

We discovered the nest of our friends, the golden eagles. It was situate
quite two miles away, in a vertical pulpit-shaped rock-stack, that
stood forth in a terribly steep scree. From a cavern in the face of this
(prettily overhung by a clump of red-berried mistletoe) flew the male
eagle. From below, the eyrie was accessible to within a dozen feet; but
that interval proved impassable. In the evening we returned with the
rope, and having made this fast above, L. was about to ascend from
below, when the man left in charge at the top (probably misunderstanding
his instructions) let all go, and down came the rope clattering at our
feet! It was too late to rectify the blunder that night, and a month
elapsed ere we would revisit the spot. Then this curious result ensued.
The eagles, we found, had so bitterly resented the indignity of a rope
having been (even momentarily) stretched athwart their portals that they
had abandoned their stronghold, leaving two handsome eggs, partly
incubated. Their eyrie was eight feet deep, its entrance partly
overgrown with ivy and (as above mentioned) overhung by red-berried
mistletoe growing on a wild-cherry--the nest built of sticks, lined with
esparto, and adorned with green ivy-leaves and twigs of pinsápo.


(1) The "stoop"--quite vertical.             (2) "Got him."

The golden eagle is still common, ornamenting with majestic flight every
sierra in Spain. For eagles are notoriously difficult to kill, and, when
killed, cannot be eaten; so the goat-herd, with characteristic apathy
and Arab fatalism, suffers the ravages on his kids and contents himself
with an oath. Only once have we found a nest in a tree; it was a giant
oak, impending a ravine so precipitous that from the eyrie you could
drop a pebble into a torrent 200 feet below. Usually their nests are in
the crags, vast accumulations of sticks conspicuously projecting, and
generally in pairs, perhaps 100 yards apart, and which are occupied in
alternate years. Eggs are laid by mid-March, but the young hardly fly
before June. It was in this sierra that we made the sketches of golden
eagles from life, here and at p. 317.

Bonelli's eagle is another beautiful mountain-haunting species, but of
it we treat elsewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the knife-edged ridge above our eagle's eyrie (height 5500 feet) we
enjoyed a memorable view. Due south, 50 miles away, beyond the jumbled
Spanish sierras, lay Gibraltar, recognisable by its broken back, but
looking puny and inconsiderable amidst vaster heights. Beyond it--beyond
Tetuan, in fact--rose Mount Anna, an 8000-feet African mountain; to the
right, Gebel-Musa and all the Moorish coast to Cape Spartel, the straits
between showing dim and insignificant. To the eastward, beyond the
Sierra de las Nieves aforesaid, stands out boldly the long white
snow-line of Neváda, its majesty undimmed by distance and 140 miles of
intervening atmosphere. To the west we distinguish Jerez, 40 miles away,
and beyond it the shining Atlantic.

From one point there lies almost perpendicularly below, the curious
mediæval village of Grazalema, jammed in between two vast cinder-grey
rock-faces--its narrow streets, white houses, and india-red roofs
resembling nothing so much as a toy town. No space for "back-streets,"
each house faces both ways; yet Grazalema is one of the cleanest spots
we have struck--how they manage that, we know not.

Immediately beneath Grazalema is a bird-crag that contains a regular
"choughery," hundreds of these red-billed corvines nesting in its caves
and crevices. As neighbours they had lesser kestrels and rock-sparrows
(_Petronia stulta_), while the roofs of the caverns were plastered with
the mud nests of crag-martins. We also noticed here alpine swifts, and a
great frilled lizard escaped us amid broken rocks.

Within the limits of a chapter even the more notable spots of a great
serranía cannot all find place; but the rock-gorge known as the Yna de
la Garganta will not be overpassed, though no words of ours can convey
the stupendous nature of this place, a chasm riven right through the
earth's crust till its depths are invisible from above; and overshadowed
by encircling walls of sheer red crags, broken horizontally at
intervals, thus forming, as it were, tier above tier, and flanked by a
series of bastions and flying buttresses apparently provided to support
the vast superstructure above.


By climbing along the rugged central tier, one overlooks from its apex,
as from the reserved seats of a dress-circle, the whole domestic economy
of a vulture city in being. Every ledge in that abyss was crowded; many
vultures sat brooding, their heads laid flat on the rock or tucked under
the point of a wing. Elsewhere a single grey-white chick, or a huge
white egg, lay in full view on the open ledge, nestled, apparently, on
bare earth; and behind these each niche or cavern had its tenant. The
rocks around a nest were often stained blood-red, and one vulture
arrived carrying a mass of what appeared carrion in its claws. Another
brought a wisp of dry esparto-grass athwart her beak and deposited it in
her nest.[61]

While we watched this scene a smart thunderstorm passed over, with the
result that shortly afterwards the vultures spread their huge wings to
dry, displaying attitudes some of which we endeavour to sketch--see also
p. 9.

[Illustration: "WING-DRYING"]

The descent into the unseen depths beneath was rewarded, despite a
terrible scramble--part of the way on a rope--by discovering a fairy
grotto filled with pink, azure, and opalescent stalactites and
stalagmites. The bed of the canyon, which from above had appeared to be
paved with sand, now proved to consist of boulders ten feet high. After
threading a devious course through these for half-a-mile we reached the
mouth of the grotto. Its width would be nearly 200 feet and height about
half that, the form roughly resembling the quarter of a cocoa-nut. The
dome, in delicate colouring, passes description--the apex bright
salmon-pink, changing, as it passed inwards, first into clear emerald,
then to dark green, and finally to indigo; while the reflected sunlight
filtering down between the rock-walls of the canyon caused
phantasmagoric effects such as, one thought, existed only in fairyland.
The cavern was backed by pillars of stalactites resembling the pipes of
a mighty organ, and of so soft and feathery a texture that it was
surprising, on touching them, to find hard rock. The floor also was
composed of great smooth stalagmites, deep brown in colour.

From outside, one saw the sky as through a narrow rift between the
perpendicular walls which towered up 300 feet; and above that level
there again uprose the vultures' cliffs already described.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening we detected afar a cavern which showed signs of being the
present abode of a lammergeyer. Ere reaching it, however, a keen eye
descried one of these birds in the heavens at an altitude that dwarfed
the great _Gypaëtus_ to the size of a humble kestrel. Presently, after
many descending sweeps, the lammergeyer entered another cavern 2000 feet
higher up--in fact, close under the sky-line, among some scanty
pinsápos. The hour was 4 P.M., and after a long day's scramble, the
writer shied at a fresh ascent. Not so my companion, L., who set off at
a run, and within an hour had reached the eyrie. It proved empty, though
the leg of a freshly killed kid lay half across the nest. This was
presumably the alternative site, used, this year, merely as a larder;
but time did not that night admit of further search.

The writer beguiled the two-hours interval in interviewing a wild
gipsy-eyed girl of twelve, whose name was Joséfa Aguilár, and whose
vocation in life to attend a herd of swine. Throughout Spain, whether on
mountain or plain, one sees this thing--a small boy or girl spending the
livelong day in solitary charge of dumb beasts, goats or pigs, even
turkeys--and the sight ever causes me a pang of regret. Probably I am
quite wrong, but such hardly seems a human vocation--certainly it leads
nowhere. In intervals of pelting her recalcitrant charges with stones,
Joséfa told me she lived in a reed-hut which was close by, but so small
that I had overlooked its existence; that she never went to school or
had been farther from home than Zahara, a village some few miles away.
She asked if I was from Grazalema, and on being told from England, she
repeated the word "Inglaterra" again and again, while her bright black
eyes became almost sessile with wonderment. Joséfa's frock was hanging
in tatters, torn to bits by the thorny scrub. I gave her some coppers to
buy a new one, and with a little joyous scream Joséfa vanished among the


Darkness was closing in ere L. returned; then great thunder-clouds
rolled up, obscuring the moon, and oh! what we suffered those next three
hours, scrambling over rock and ridge, through forest and thicket--all
in inky darkness and under a deluge of rain.

On returning to this remote ridge (having ascended from the opposite
face), we soon renewed our friendship with the lammergeyer--when first
seen, it was being mobbed by an impudent chough. Then it sailed up the
deep gorge below us, passing close in front, and after clearing an angle
of the hill, wheeled inwards and with gently closing wings plunged into
a cavern in the crag. We felt we had our object assured; yet on
examining these mighty piles of rocks--a couple of hours' stiff
climbing--it was evident we were mistaken, for no nest, past or present,
did they reveal. It was on yet a third stupendous crag, quite a mile
from the alternative site first discovered, that this year these
lammergeyers had fixed their home. The nest was in quite a small cave in
the rock-face; more often (as described in _Wild Spain_) the lammergeyer
prefers a huge cavern in the centre of which is piled an immense mass of
sticks, heather-stalks, and other rubbish--the accumulation of
years--and lined with esparto-grass and wool. The eggs always number two
and are richly coloured, whereas the griffon lays but one, and that
white. Although laying takes place as early as January, yet the young
are unable to fly before June. Our principal object this year was to
sketch the lammergeyer in life, and in this several rough portraits
serve to show that we succeeded--so far as in us lies.

       *       *       *       *       *

There remain notes of later vernal developments in these beautiful
sierras; but alas! this chapter is already too long, so over the
taffrail they go.




The Sierra Bermeja, standing on Mediterranean shore, demands a page or
two if only because it affords a home to three of Spain's peculiar and
rarer guests--the pinsápo, the ibex, and the lammergeyer.

Our earlier experience in Bermeja, our efforts to study its ibex--and to
secure a specimen or two--are told in _Wild Spain_. Suffice it here to
say that the characteristic of these Mediterranean mountains is that
here the ibex habitually live, and even lie-up (as hares do), among the
scrubby brushwood of the hills--a remarkable deviation from their
observed habits elsewhere, whether in Spain, the Caucasus and Himalayas,
or wherever ibex are found. But since brushwood clothes Bermeja and
other Mediterranean hills to their topmost heights, the local wild-goats
have literally no choice in the matter. Still, such a habitat must
strike a hunter's eye as abnormal, and is, in fact, a curious instance
of "adaptation to environment."[62]

During December 1907 we spent some days in Bermeja in an attempt to
stalk the ibex--a difficult undertaking when game is always three-parts
hidden by scrub. On former occasions we had secured a specimen or two by
stalking (here called _raspagéo_) and "driving"; but whatever chance
there might have been was this time annihilated by incessant mists
enshrouding the heights in opaque screen. Thus another carefully
organised expedition and unstinted labour were once more thrown away!

[Illustration: LAMMERGEYER

[Drawn from life in Sierra Bermeja, March 1891.]]

On December 19 we drove the "Pinsapal." This, commencing near the
highest tops, 5000 feet, extends down a tremendous conch-shaped ravine,
merging at the base into pine-forests--chiefly, we believe, _Pinus
pinaster_. This "drive" lasted two hours, mist sometimes densely thick,
at others clearing a little; but only allowing a view varying from
twenty to eighty yards. This, coupled with constant drip from the
gigantic pinsápos and a bitter wind blowing through clothes already
soaked, was ... well, comfortless and pretty hopeless to boot. Twice the
dogs gave tongue--and it could be nothing but ibex here; while D., who
was posted on the left, heard the rattling of hoofs as a herd passed
within, as he reckoned, 200 yards. A second lot, followed by dogs, was
heard though not seen on the extreme right. The pinsápos at this season,
and in such weather, form a favourite resort, for we saw more sign
hereabouts than on the high tops. A _levante_ wind in winter always
means mist--and failure.

The ibex in winter hold the high ground unless driven down by snow. In
spring and summer they come lower--even to cork-oak levels--presumably
to avoid contact with tame goats, then pasturing on the tops.

The east wind and fog continuing a whole week, though we tried all we
knew, every effort was frustrated by atmospheric obstruction. To drive
ibex successfully, the skilled training of the dogs is essential.
Formerly there were goat-herds who possessed clever dogs of great local
repute. But these days of "free-shooting" have passed away, and the ibex
of Bermeja with those of other Spanish sierras have recently fallen
under the beneficent ægis of "protection."

Bird-life in winter is scarce. We noticed a few redwings feeding on
berries; jays, partridges, and many wood-pigeons picking up acorns.
Vultures rarely appear here, but both golden and Bonelli's eagles were
observed, and in one mountain-gorge a pair of lammergeyers have their
stronghold, where in 1891 we examined both their eyries, one containing
a young _Gypaëtus_ as big as a turkey. That was in March, at which
season hawfinches abounded in the pines, and at dawn the melody of the
blue thrush recalled Scandinavian springs and the redwing's song.
Another small bird caused recurrent annoyance while ibex-driving. With a
loud "Rat, tat, tat," resembling the patter of horny hoofs on rock, its
song commences; then follows a hissing note as of a heavy body passing
through brushwood--for an instant one expects the coveted game to
appear. No, confound that bird! it's only a blackstart.

We extract the following scene from _Wild Spain_:--

     On the lifting of a cloud-bank which rested on the mountain-side, I
     descried four ibex standing on a projecting rock in bold relief
     about 400 yards away. The intervening ground was rugged--rocks and
     brush-wood with scattered pines--and except the first 50 yards, the
     stalk offered no difficulty. I had passed the dangerous bit, and
     was already within 200 yards, when in a moment the wet mist settled
     down again and I saw the game no more. Curiously, on the fog first
     lifting, an eagle sat all bedraggled and woe-begone on a rock-point
     hard by, his feathers fluffed out and a great yellow talon
     protruding, as it seemed, from the centre of his chest. Then a
     faint sun-ray played on his bronzed plumage: he shook himself and
     launched forth in air, sweeping downwards--luckily without moving
     the ibex, though they took note of the circumstance.

In the lower forests here are some pig and roe-deer. A far greater
stronghold, however, for both these game-animals is at Almoraima,
belonging to the Duke of Medinaceli, some six or eight leagues to the
westward. Almoraima covers a vast extent of wild mountainous land of no
great elevations generally, but all wooded and jungle-clad. On the lower
levels grow immense cork-forests. Here, during a series of _monterías_
in February 1910, in which the writer, to his lasting regret, was
prevented from taking part, a total of 19 roe-deer and 52 boars was
secured. The two best roebuck heads measured as follows:--

             (outside curve).      Circumference.        Tip to Tip.
  No. 1          9-1/2"               3-1/2"                3-5/8"
  No. 2          9-1/4"               4-3/8"                3"


These mountains (being within sight of our home) formed the scene of our
earliest sporting ventures in Spain. It is forty years ago now, yet do
we not forget that first day and its anxieties, as we rode by crevices
that serve for bridle-paths, along with a too jovial hill-farmer, Barréa
by name, who persisted in carrying a loaded gun swinging haphazard and
full-cock in the saddle-slings--that it was loaded we saw by the shiny
copper cap on each nipple! Our objects that day were boar and roe-deer;
but presently a partridge was descried sprinting up the rugged screes
above. Out came the ready gun, and next moment all that remained of that
partridge was a cloud of feathers and scattered anatomy. The ball had
gone true. Barréa casually shouted to a lad to pick up the pieces,
himself riding on as though such practice was an everyday affair. My own
experience of ball-shooting being then limited, I reflected that if
such were Spanish marksmanship, I might be left behind! On assembling
for lunch, however, some vultures were wheeling high overhead, and it
occurred to me to try my luck. By precisely a similar fluke, one huge
griffon collapsed to the shot, and swirling round and round like a
parachute, occupied (it seemed) five minutes in reaching the
ground--1000 feet below us.

That afternoon the antics of two strange beasties attracted my attention
and again my ball went straight. The victim was a mongoose, and with
some pride I had the specimen carefully stowed in the
mule-panniers--never to see it more! The mongoose, we now know, owing to
its habit of eating snakes, has acquired a personal aroma surpassing in
pungency that of any other beast of the field, and our men, so soon as
my back was turned, had discreetly thrown out the malodorous trophy.

A boar-shooting trip to the Sierra de Jerez formed the first sporting
venture in which the authors were jointly engaged; for which reason
(though the memory dates back to March 1872) we may be forgiven for
extracting a brief summary from _Wild Spain_:--

     Our quarters were a little white rancho perched amid deep bush and
     oak-woods on the slope of the Sierra del Valle. A mile farther up
     the valley was closed by the dark transverse mass of the Sierra de
     las Cabras, the two ranges being separated by an abrupt chasm
     called the Boca de la Foz, which was to be the scene of this day's

     A pitiable episode occurred. While preparing to mount, there
     resounded from behind a peal of strange inhuman laughter, followed
     by incoherent words; and through an iron-barred window we discerned
     the emaciated figure of a man, wild and unkempt, whose eagle-like
     claws grasped the barriers of his cell--a poor lunatic. No
     connected replies could we get, nothing beyond vacuous laughter and
     gibbering chatter. Now he was at the theatre and quoted magic
     jargon; anon supplicating the mercy of a judge; then singing a
     stanza of some old song, to break off abruptly into fierce
     denunciation of one of us as the cause of his troubles. Poor
     wretch! he had once been a successful advocate; but signs of
     madness having developed, which increased with years, the once
     popular lawyer was reduced to the 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 allowed. We were warned
     that any effort to ameliorate his lot was hopeless, his case being
     desperate. What hidden wrongs may exist in a land where no judicial
     intervention is obligatory between the "rights of families" and
     their insane relations (or those whom they may consider such) are
     easy to conceive.

     The first covert tried was a strong jungle flanking the main gorge,
     but this and a second beat proved blank, though two roebuck broke
     back. The third drive comprised the main _manchas_, or thickets, of
     the Boca de la Foz, and to this we ascended on foot, leaving the
     horses picketed behind. Our four guns occupied the rim of a natural
     amphitheatre which dipped sharply away some 1500 feet beneath us,
     the centre choked with brushwood--lentisk, arbutus, and thorn--20
     feet deep. On our left towered a perpendicular block of limestone
     cliffs, the right flank of the jungle being bordered by a series of
     up-tilted rock-strata, white as marble and resembling a ruined

     Ten minutes of profound silence, not a sound save the distant
     tinkle of a goat-bell, or the song of that feathered recluse, the
     blue rock-thrush (in Spanish, _Solitario_), then the distant cries
     of the beaters in the depths below told us the fray had begun.

     Another ten minutes' suspense. Then a crash of hound-music
     proclaimed that the quarry was at home. This boar proved to be one
     of certain grizzly monsters of which we were specially in search,
     his lair a jumble of boulders islanded amid thickest jungle. Here
     he held his ground, declining to recognise in canine aggressors a
     superior force. Two boar-hounds reinforced the skirmishers of the
     pack, yet the old tusker stood firm. 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
     mountaineers blended with the howl of an incautious _podenco_ as he
     received a death-rip--all formed a chorus of sounds that carried
     their exciting story to the sentinel guns above.

     The seat of war being near half-a-mile away, no immediate issue was
     expected. Then there occurred one crash of bush, and a second boar
     dashed straight for the pass where the writer barred the way. The
     suddenness of the encounter disconcerted, and the first shot
     missed--the bullet splashing on a grey rock just above--time barely
     remained to jump aside and avoid collision. The left barrel got
     home: a stumble and a savage grunt as an ounce of lead penetrated
     his vitals, and the boar plunged headlong, his life-blood dyeing
     the weather-blanched rocks and green palmetto. For a moment he lay,
     but ere cold steel could administer a quietus, he had regained his
     feet and dashed back. Whether revenge prompted that move or it was
     merely an effort to regain the covert he had just left, we know
     not--a third bullet laid him lifeless.

     During this interlude (though it only occupied five seconds) the
     main combat below reached its climax. The old boar had left his
     stronghold, and after sundry sullen stands and promiscuous
     skirmishes (during which a second _podenco_ died), he made for the
     heights. Showing first on the centre, he was covered for a moment
     by a ·450 Express; but, not breaking covert, no shot could be
     fired, and when next viewed the boar was trotting up a stone-slide
     on the extreme left. Here a rifle-shot broke a foreleg, and the
     disabled beast, unable to face the hill, retreated to the thicket
     below, scattering dogs and beaters in headlong flight. And now
     commenced the hue and cry--the real hard work for those who meant
     to see the end and earn the spoils of war. Presently _Moro's_ deep
     voice told us of the boar at bay, far away down in the depths of
     the defile. What followed in that hurly-burly--that mad scramble
     through brake and thicket, down crag and scree--cannot be written.
     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 roams
     the Spanish sierras.

This last spring (1910), after thirty-eight years, we revisited the Boca
de la Foz, partly to reassure ourselves that the above description was
not overdrawn. No! 'Tis a terrible wild gorge, the Foz, but the days
when we can follow a wounded boar through obstacles such as those have
passed away. The boars, we were told, are still there, and so are the
vultures in those magnificent crags. We climbed along the ledges and
there were the great stick-built nests, each in its ancestral site. In
March each contains a single egg; now (April) that is replaced by a
leaden-hued chick. These cliffs are also tenanted by ravens and a single
pair of choughs. Neophrons occupied the same cavern whence I shot a
female in 1872, and crag-martins held their old abodes, plastered on to
the roofs of the caves.

As April advances a new and striking bird-form arrives to adorn the
higher sierras--the least observant can scarce miss this, the
rock-thrush (_Monticola saxatilis_), conspicuous alike in plumage and
actions; with clear blue head and chestnut breast, its colour-scheme
includes a broad patch of white set in the centre of a dark back. The
contrast is most effective, and, so far as we know, this "fashion" of a
white back is unique among birds, unless indeed it be shared by
Bonelli's eagle. The rock-thrush is also endowed with a lovely wild
song, quite low and simple, but replete with a fine "high-tops" quality.
By April 20 he yields to vernal impulses, and his courting is pretty to
see; wheeling around on transparent pinions, he soars and sings the
livelong day; at intervals, with collapsed wing, he drops like a stone
to join his sober-hued mate among the rocks; a few picturesque poses,
displaying all those flashing tints of orange and opal, and off he goes
again to soar and sing once more. His cousin, the blue-thrush, has also
a sweet song and a similar hovering flight, ending in a "drop act"; but
the ascent is more vertical, while frequently he varies the descent and
comes fluttering down in tree-pipit or butterfly-like style. Even the
sober little blackchat now "shows off," perched on some boulder with
quivering wings and tail spread fan-like over his back. Both these two
last, being resident, nest much earlier than the migratory rock-thrush:
the latter was building (in crevices of the rocks) by mid-April, but
hardly lays before May.

These sierras being only 3000 to 4000 feet, one misses here some of the
alpine forms observed at higher altitudes. The tawny pipit, for example,
a sandy-hued bird with dark eye-stripe and active wagtail-like gait,
which was common on San Cristobal at 4500 feet in April, never showed up
here at all; nor did any of the following species, all so characteristic
of the higher ground: Blackstarts, woodlarks, rock-buntings, cole-and
longtail-tits, and tree-creepers. The choughs, spotted woodpeckers,
rock-thrushes, crag-martins, and wood-pigeons, though observed, were
here very much scarcer. The lammergeyer, too, rarely descends here, and
then only while in his smoke-black uniform of immaturity.


In May 1883, while returning from Ubrique, our horses fell lame owing to
loss of shoes, and for four days and nights we were encamped in the pass
known as the Puerta de Palomas. There is a tiny _ventorillo_, or wayside
wine-shop, at the foot of the pass; but nights are warm in May, and we
preferred the freedom of the open hill, where the strange growls made by
the griffons at dawn, together with the awakening carol of the
rock-thrush, formed our reveille each morning in that roofless bedroom
amidst the boulders.

The opposite side of the pass is dominated by the picturesque pile
called the Picacho del Aljibe, a conical peak that towers in tiers of
crags above the adjoining sierras not unlike a gigantic Arthur's Seat
over the Salisbury Crags. Our own side was rather a chaotic jumble of
detached monoliths than cliffs proper, and by clambering over these we
reached in one morning sixteen vultures' nests, the easiest of access we
ever struck. They were mostly very slight affairs, bare rock often
protruding through the scanty structure; though, where necessary, a
broad platform of sticks was provided--as sketched. The poults (only one
in each nest) were now as big as guinea-fowls, with brown feathers
sprouting through the white down. These eyries, albeit slightly
malodorous, are always strictly clean, since vultures feed their young
by disgorging half-digested food from their own crops, and we watched
this not-pleasing operation being performed within some eighty yards'
distance; hence there is no carrion or putrefying matter lying about, as
is the case with the neophron and lammergeyer.

10, 1910.]

These eyries were situate on three great outstanding stacks of rock, and
during the scramble we came face to face with a pair of eagle-owls
solemnly dreaming away the hours in the recesses of a cavern, though no
sign of a nest was discovered. The caves were shared by crag-martins,
whose swallow-like nests were fixed under the roof, usually just beyond
reach. Their eggs are white, flecked with grey. On May 18 we obtained
here a nest of the rock-thrush with five beautiful greenish-blue eggs.
It was built in a cranny of the crags.

This year (1910) found us once more in the Puerta de Palomas, the date
April 8. On rounding the Sierra de las Cabras, as L. was already far up
the hillside, I rode forward intending to ascend at the north end and
work back, thus meeting in centre. A succession of mischances, however,
upset that plan. A small clump of ilex clung to the steep above the
point whereat I had left the horses, and in traversing this, I walked
right into a calf concealed beneath a lentiscus. Knowing that this might
involve trouble should its half-wild mother be within hearing, I gently
retreated, but, hard by, stumbled on a second calf, even smaller, in
another bush. No. 1 meanwhile had gained its legs and bleated softly.
There followed a crash among the bush above, and as fierce-looking a
wild beast as ever I saw (and I have seen some) came hurtling down those
rugged rocks at amazing speed. On seeing me (luckily some little
distance from her own offspring) the infuriated mother pulled up,
full-face--a pretty picture, but rather menacing, especially as she kept
up a muttered bellowing, horribly eloquent. I had sidled alongside a
tree; but Paco, who carried my gun, with the reckless spirit begotten of
the bull-fight, boldly addressed the enemy in opprobrious terms. The
only result was that she came still nearer, and I swung to a lower
branch. Paco, nothing daunted, now tried stones (in addition to
expletives), and it was, to me at least, a relief when that cow at
length retired. The half-wild savage may easily be more dangerous than
the truly wild. The former have lost some of their pristine respect for
man, and of course one has less means of defence.

This incident over, we commenced the climb. The rock-stack rose
vertically above us, but we diverged to the right as affording an easier
route. On reaching the desired level, however, I found it impossible to
make good that interval on our left--a smooth rock-face devoid of
handhold, and too upright to traverse, forbade all lateral movement. Up
we went another twenty yards, then another; but always to find that
slithery rock-face mocking our efforts to outflank it. We were now well
above the rock-stack overlooking the eyries, and I could see two
griffons brooding, another feeding a poult close by. But between us was
a great gulf fixed, and that gulf stopped us. The obvious alternative
was to descend and try again from a fresh point. But here a new
difficulty faced us: we could not descend. We had come up by following a
series of vertical fissures, or "chimnies," none too easy, since every
crevice sheltered some vicious vegetation, each more spikey and thorny
than the last. Still from _below_ one can always select a handhold
somewhere, and then defy the thorn; whereas on looking _backwards_,
nothing is visible but a vanishing outline of rock and gorse, porcupine
broom, or palmetto--beyond is vacant space, and a sheer drop at that. In
a word, we could neither descend nor move laterally. It was
humiliating--even more so than the antecedent incident with a _COW_!

One resource remained--to climb on to the top; and even in that
direction a single bad rock might cut off escape. No such crowning
catastrophe befell, but it was tooth-and-claw work, every yard of it,
and the vertical height could not have been less than 1000 feet.

While thus "clawing up" I recollect passing a perfect glory in
orchids--great twin purple blooms, golden-tipped and quite amorphous in
outline. They grew just beyond my reach. Curious recumbent ferns clung
to the rocks; anemones and violet-like bouquets peered from each cranny.

Meanwhile L., approaching from the other side, had examined the
rock-stacks and succeeded in attaining one main objective--the nest of
the eagle-owl. This was in a rock-cavern, close by that of '83, easy of
access--indeed the great owl flew out in his face as he passed below.
The cave (four feet high by two wide) was at the foot of a vertical
limestone cliff, its floor level with a goat-track that skirted the
crag, and fully exposed to view; there was no nest nor any debris. Two
young owls in white down, with one egg actually "chipping," lay on the
bare earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the griffon's nests still contained (on April 8) a fresh egg,
which is now in the writer's collection as a memorial of that day. We
had secured all we had expected in the Puerta de Palomas--and something
more besides.




Spain is a land of flocks and herds, of breeders and graziers. At the
head of the scale stands the fighting-bull, monarch of the richest
_vegas_; at the opposite extreme come the shaggy little ponies and
brood-mares that eke out a feral and precarious subsistence in the
wildest regions. Throughout the marismas hardy beasts with wild-bred
progeny on which no human hand has ever laid, abound, grazing knee-deep
in watery wildernesses where tasteless reed or wiry spear-grass afford a
bare subsistence.

There they live, splashing in the shadows, heads half-immersed as they
pull up subaquatic herbage; on the back of one rides perched a
snow-white egret, on another a couple of magpies, preying on ticks or
warbles, while all around swim wildfowl that scarce deign to move aside.

No fowler could view such a scene without perceiving that approach to
the wildfowl might be effected under cover of these unsuspected ponies.
The earliest aucipial mind probably realised the advantage offered, and
the system has been practised in Spain from time immemorial.

The method is simple. The ponies (termed, when trained, _cabrestos_, or
"decoys") seem by intuition to realise what is required. By a cord
attached to the headstall, the fowler, crouching behind the shoulder,
directs his pony's course towards the unconscious fowl. At intervals,
still further to disarm suspicion, feigned halts are made as though to
simulate grazing. Before closing in, the nose-cord is made fast to the
near fore-knee, thus holding the pony's head well down. Presently the
ducks are within half gunshot, and we amateurs (whose doubled backs ache
excruciatingly from a constrained position maintained for half an hour)
pray each moment for relief and the signal to fire. No! Our
fowler-friends shoot for a livelihood, and continue, with marvellous
skill and patience, so to manoeuvre their beasts that the utmost
possible target shall finally be presented to the broadside. There is no
hurry--nor time nor aching vertebræ with them count one centimo. (See
photo at p. 90.)

Should it be necessary to change course, that operation is effected by
wheeling the pony stern-on to the fowl, the fowler meanwhile crouching
low under his muzzle: critical moments ensue during which the expert has
no cover but the pony's breadth--instead of his length--to shield him
from detection by hundreds of the keenest eyes on earth. But it is
remarkable how little notice is taken of what is necessarily in full
view provided that the exposed objects are _beneath_ the covering
animal. Once let a human head or a gun-barrel appear _above_ its outline
and the spell is broken. But otherwise--say during those interludes of
feigned "grazing"--the suffering fowlers can straighten their backs by
squatting down (in the water!) and thus enjoy at closest quarters a
spectacle of wild creatures that is impossible to attain by any other
means yet discovered. Though the fowlers are now fully visible, framed,
as it were, beneath the _cabresto's_ belly and between his legs, no
notice will be taken or any alarm created so long as the pony's skylines
remain unadorned with human appendages. There, within a score of yards,
you sit face to face with ducks by the hundred, feeding, splashing,
preening--all utterly unconcerned! Those of our readers who are most
familiar with wildfowl will best realise how incredible such a statement
must read. Ordinarily, the slightest visible movement--the mere glint of
a gun-barrel though half masked by cover--suffices to shift every duck
at one hundred yards and more. Here they ignore objects practically
exposed and close at hand. Apparently the habitual companionship day by
day of water-bred ponies has annihilated in their minds all sense of
danger arising from such a quarter.

The Spanish professionals (using large but antiquated muzzle-loaders)
work singly, each man behind his own pony; or should two or more join
forces for a broadside, there still remains but one man behind each
animal. These men are reputed to have made extraordinary shots; and
having viewed their infinite patience, we can well believe such records.
To place two guns behind one _cabresto_-pony, that is, an amateur as
well as the professional, is a distinct handicap. We have done it
ourselves, and accepted the handicap merely to see the system in
operation; yet by using more powerful weapons have probably killed as
many fowl at one shot as even the fabled totals of our friends.

Obviously no comparison can be, or is, suggested as between two totally
different performances. It has been solely for the purpose of learning
the system, and also of enjoying unequalled views of wildfowl close at
hand, that we have occasionally put in a day with the _cabresto_-ponies,
and here annex a few records of shots made by this means, taken at
random from our diaries.

     _January 1, 1898._--Fired three broadsides with two guns, a double
     8-and a single 4-bore; in the second case the fowl had just been
     badly scared by a kite. Results:--

     (1)  59 wigeon, 3 teal                               62
     (2)  30      "  3   "                                33
     (3)  60      "  1   "     4 pintail, 4 shoveler      69
                                          Total          164

     _January 31, 1905._--In three shots at wigeon, the first being half
     spoilt by a big black-backed gull, the authors (two guns)

     27 + 51 + 48 = 126 wigeon.

     _December 29, 1893._--Santolalla (2 guns), 78 teal, besides some
     coots, at a single shot.

     _January 1894._--Laguna Dulce; three _cabrestos_ with Spanish
     fowlers, and two amateurs with big breech-loaders (a broadside of 5

     198 teal (including about a dozen wigeon).

A shot made in January 1894 seems worth recording merely in respect of
the numbers killed by only some _seven ounces_ of lead. An islet
actually _carpeted_ with teal was our target, and two 12-bores, aided by
an ancient Spanish muzzle-loader (about 10-bore), realised fifty head,
to wit, forty-nine teal and one mallard-drake.

Geese will rarely admit of approach to the close quarters necessary for
effective work; yet just on those rare exceptional occasions we have
secured (using heavy shoulder-guns) from six to a dozen greylags in a
day, once or twice more than this--five at a shot being the maximum.


In contrast with the success of the _cabresto_ system, the stancheon-gun
proved a failure. So admirably adapted for punt-gunning appeared those
great shallow marismas, that in 1888 we sent out the entire outfit and
artillery for wildfowling afloat--a 22-foot double-handed gunning-punt
and an 80-lb. gun to throw 16 oz. of shot.

The little craft reached the Guadalquivir in September, but unforeseen
difficulties arose. The Spanish custom-house took alarm. True, the smart
little gun-boat was an entire novelty--even in the Millwall docks she
had created surprise; here she was incomprehensible. No such vessel had
ever floated on Spanish waters, and the official mind needed time to
consider. That oracle, after weeks of cogitation, ordered the removal of
the suspicious craft from the obscure port of Bonanza to the fuller
light that plays on the custom-house at Seville. There, after more weeks
of delay, it was decided that the white-painted six-foot barrel was "an
arm of war," that "the combination of boat and gun savoured of the
mechanism of war," and, finally, that "the boat could not be permitted
to pass the customs until it had been registered at the Admiralty." Thus
our _Boadicea_ joined the Imperial Navy of Spain.

Seven months elapsed whilst these difficulties were in process of
solution, and ere they were smoothed away (as difficulties in Spain, or
elsewhere, do dissolve under prudent treatment), and the _Boadicea_ set
free to navigate the marismas, the season had passed and the migrant
fowl had returned to the north.

The following autumn, however, it at once became apparent that the
venture was a failure. No wildfowl would tolerate her presence within
half-a-mile. No sooner had her low snake-like form crept clear of
fringing covert than the broad _lucio_ in front was in seething tumult,
every duck within sight had sprung on wing. Naturally we tried every
known plan, but all in vain. A system that is effective on the harassed
and hard-shot estuaries of England utterly broke down on the desolate
marismas of Spain. The apparent explanation is that whereas fowl at home
are accustomed to see passing craft of many kinds, and perhaps mistake
the low-lying gunboat for a larger vessel far away; here no craft of any
sort navigate the marisma, or should the box-shape _cajones_ of native
gunners be so classed, they are at once recognised as wholly and solely

One plan remained by which the big gun might be brought to bear upon the
larger bodies of fowl: concealing the boat among sedges at some point
where ducks had been observed to assemble _within reach_ of such covert.
That, however, to begin with, was most uncertain--the only certainty was
that enormous drafts on patience would be required; and, after all, it
forms no part of the system of wildfowling afloat and lacks the joys and
glories of that pursuit.


Since meeting with four hoopers in February 1891, as recorded in _Wild
Spain_, we had neither seen nor heard of wild swans in Southern Spain
till February of the present year, 1910, when H.R.H. the Duke of Orleans
kindly informed us that he had succeeded in shooting one of a pair met
with in his marismas of Villamanrique. It proved to be an adult male of
Bewick's swan--the first occurrence of that species that has been
recorded in Spain.



The withdrawal of the wildfowl at the vernal equinox affords an
unequalled scenic display. It forms, moreover, one of those rare
revelations of her inner working that Nature but seldom allows to man.
Her operations, as a rule, are essentially secretive. A little may be
revealed, the bulk must be inferred. Here, for once, a vast revolution
is performed in open daylight, _coram populo_--that is, if the authors
and a handful of Spanish fowlers be accepted as representative, since no
other witness is present at these scenes enacted in remote watery

Up to mid-February the daily life of the marisma continues as already
described. From that date a new movement becomes perceptible--the
seasonal redistribution. Daily there withdraw northward bands and
detachments counting into thousands apiece. But no vacancy occurs since
their places are simultaneously filled by corresponding arrivals from
beyond the Mediterranean.

It is at this precise epoch that there occurs the phenomenon of which we
have spoken.

Towards the close of February, dependent on the moon, a marked climatic
change takes place. A period of sudden heat usually sets in--a sequence
of warm sunny days, breathless, and at noontide almost suffocating. But
each afternoon with flowing tide there arises from the sea a S. W.
breeze, gentle at first and uncertain but gaining strength with the
rising flood.

Already, shortly before this change, the duck-tribes had partially
relaxed their full mid-winter activities--owing to abundant spring
growths of food-plants, had become more sedentary; if not sluggish, at
least reluctant to move. After the brief morning-flight not a wing
stirred. But now, scan the mirror-like surface of some great _lucio_
and you will recognise a new movement distinct and dissimilar from
regular hibernal habit. There float within sight (and the same is
happening at a score of places beyond sight) not only the usual loose
flotillas, but three, four, or five concrete assemblages of densely
massed fowl whose appearance the slightest scrutiny will differentiate
from the others. These are not sitting quiescent. The binoculars
disclose a scene of perpetual motion, well-nigh of riot--one might be
regarding a feathered faction-fight. Hundreds of units fight, splash,
and chase, or throw up water with beating wings till surf and spray half
conceals the seething crowd. That flicker of pinions and flying foam
are, moreover, accompanied by a chorus of myriad notes--a babel of
twirling sound blended in rising and falling cadences, comparable only
to the distant roar of some mighty city. A more singular spectacle we
have not encountered.

Inquiry from one's companion elicits the reply that these assemblages
are _hechando corros para irse_ (literally, "forming choruses
preparatory to departure")--an expression which conveyed no more
significance to us than it can to the reader.[64] We decided to return
at daybreak to see this thing through, and after watching the phenomenon
a score of times can now explain it.

During the morning hours there are established focal points whereat
assemble those units already affected by the emigrant furor. These (at
first, perhaps, but a score or two) rapidly increase in numbers till
each focus becomes the nucleus of a corro. The seasonal infection
spreads, and as its influence impregnates the surrounding masses, these,
singly or in scores or hundreds as the passion seizes them, hasten to
join one or other of the mobilising army-corps. Within an hour or two
the insignificant original nucleus has developed into a vast host all in
a ferment of agitation, and being constantly reinforced by buzzing
swarms of recruits from without.

All this procedure, remember, has been taking place during the blazing
noontide heat. Now the hour is 2 P.M., and the first gentle breath of
the daily sea-breeze--the _viento de la mar_--is becoming perceptible.
This breeze springs from the S. W., and let us here admit that, being
fowlers as well as naturalists, our observance of the phenomenon has
usually been carried out upon a _lucio_ which happens to terminate
towards the N. E. in a long narrow bight fringed by tall reeds and
bulrush, where, concealed in friendly covert, we can continue the
observation while glancing along the barrel of a punt-gun. That
secondary fact is merely incidental and, it so happens, facilitates the
main object.

A mile to windward three such armies are mobilising separately within
the scope of our view; and now the gentle force of that sea-breeze
begins to impel those unconscious hosts, too preoccupied with
all-absorbing passion to notice detail, directly towards the point
whereat we lie concealed.

[Illustration: REED-BUNTING

A winter visitor to the marismas.]

By this time the sun has three or four hours of declension and the thin
dark line representing thousands of surging atoms has drifted down to
within 200 yards. We can study at short range an amazing phenomenon. In
weird exuberance they fight and flirt, chase, cherish, and flap till
churned water flies in foam and a discordant roar of sibilant sound
fills to the zenith the voids of space. The volume of voices defies
description since these assembling multitudes belong to no single
species, but include a promiscuous agglomeration of all that care to
enlist, and each adds its own distinctive element to the general
uproar.[65] Around the floating host new-comers buzz like swarming bees,
each seeking some spot to wedge itself into the crowd.

To-night the main _corro_ that we had been awaiting drifted past our
front a trifle beyond effective range. The two that followed both "took
the ground" and remained stationary, away to the right. The chance of
making a great shot had failed; but we were content to watch the
phenomenon to its finish.

Now the sun dips. The western sky is filled with golden glory; in twenty
short minutes darkness will have enveloped the earth. Then in a moment,
as by word of command, silence, sudden and impressive, reigns where just
before that torrential babel had raged. Such, now, is the stilly silence
that by comparison the pipe of a passing redshank sounds well-nigh
scandalous! A few seconds pass. Then, dominated by a single impulse, the
concentrated mass on our front rises simultaneously on wing. The spell
of silence is broken; the roar of pinions reverberates far and wide.
They're off--bound for Siberia!

    Yet unperplexed as though one spirit swayed
        Their indefatigable flight.

Holding the same massed formation, the fowl in three or four broadening
circles quickly attain a considerable altitude--say 100 yards--and then
head away on their course, _ALWAYS_ (so far as they remain visible) to
the _SOUTH-EAST_--diametrically opposite to the direction one would
expect. As in deepening darkness we set forth on our homeward voyage,
the heaven above pulsates at intervals with the beating of wings as yet
more north-bound _corros_ pass overhead.

Certain notable facts are observable in this vernal exodus. For upwards
of twelve hours prior to departure the outgoing fowl take no food. That
period is devoted exclusively to preparation and overhaul, _and_ to
pairing. Plumage is preened and dressed till each unit is spick and
span, speckless, and not a feather misplaced. All, moreover, are
absolutely empty--in best and lightest travelling trim.

When ducks are _acorrados_--that is, formed into _corros_ (the term is
used thus in verb-form)--their normal watchfulness is relaxed. All
thought and energy are concentrated on the impending event. Hence, at
these periods they are apt to fall an easier prey to the fowler and on
wholesale lines. The native gunners with their trained _cabresto_-ponies
sometimes unite and enormous totals are secured as the result of a
single joint broadside. The fowl thus obtained afford proof of the facts
just stated, being all absolutely empty; besides which many different
species will be killed at the one shot.[66] These men also state that
the ducks start already paired and flying side by side; this, they say,
explains the ferment and commotion of the previous hours--courting and
sorting. Adult ducks, as previously indicated (p. 110), apparently pair
for life; but since some species (such as wigeon) take at least two
years to gain maturity, it is probable that the sexual phenomena which
are so conspicuous in the _corros_ represent the first pairing of the
newly adult two-year-olds.

The most favourable time for the assembling of corros is on those days
when great heat and calm at midday is succeeded towards evening by an
extra strong sea-breeze. On such occasions very large numbers will leave
between sundown and dark. Northerly winds will almost absolutely arrest
the exodus.

For the season of 1900-1901 our game-books showed a total of 4849
wildfowl (4674 ducks and 175 geese)--a record for which we were
good-humouredly taken to task by our venerable friend the late Canon
Tristram, who thought it looked excessive. The figures certainly are
big, but the next entry in the book reads:--

     _March 15._--This evening between fifty and seventy _corros_ left
     within half an hour--say 50,000 to 70,000 ducks. Next morning the
     marisma appeared as full as ever.

Our toll of 5000 seemed by comparison but as a drop in the bucket!




Bird-life in the Spanish marisma--in spring no less than in
winter--presents spectacles of such abounding variety as can nowhere in
Europe be surpassed. In the Arctic are vaster aggregations, but these,
comprising, say, only half-a-dozen species, are less attractive. It is
the infinite kaleidoscopic succession of graceful and dissimilar forms
that hour by hour flash on one's sight--in a word, it is variety that
lends abiding charm to our Spanish bird-world.

[Illustration: GREY PLOVER (MAY)]

These scenes have already been described--we have ourselves described
them in detail, and do not propose to recapitulate, alluring though the
subject be.

Here we purpose depicting bird-life under undescribed conditions--in a
spring when, by reason of exceptional drought, the myriad marsh-dwellers
find themselves entirely at fault. Winging their seasonal way from
Africa, to seek the seclusion of reed-girt pools and their accustomed
league-long swamps and shallows, they found instead a calcined plain, no
drop of water remaining, plant-life either prematurely parched or
pulverised beneath a fiery sun. Watching the arrival of the
advance-guard in early spring, one wondered what the bewildered hosts
would do next, how they would face this fresh freak of nature.

The marismas, it should be explained, normally dry every summer, however
wet the previous winter may have been. Though the great _lucios_ stood
five feet deep in February, yet the deepest will be stone-dry by
midsummer or, at latest, by St. Jago (July 24). Cattle and the wild-game
can then only drink at the narrowed pools where permanent water, however
exiguous, oozes forth--or the cattle from wells. In normal years,
however, the marsh-birds have already reared their broods before these

But in years of drought--what resource have they, where can they find a
substitute for their sun-destroyed and desolate _incunabula_? Many (the
waders in particular) instinctively prognosticate a drought; few,
comparatively, either come or remain--those that come pass on. Even such
birds as breed on permanent deep-water lakes (such, for example, as the
smaller herons, egrets, and ibises) perceive in advance that, although
they may have water assured, there will neither be sufficient covert,
later on, to conceal their nurseries nor food for the rearing of their
young. The erewhiles teeming heronries are abandoned.

Never within forty years has there occurred a drier season than this
last, 1909-10. Incidentally we may remark that most of the previous
spring-tides that we had expressly devoted to the marisma had been years
of excessive rainfall, years when flamingoes nested abundantly--an
unfailing index. Such was 1872, for example, 1879, and 1883; again, in
April 1891, we remember our gunning-punt, caught in a squall, sinking
beneath us in quite three feet of water though barely a mile from shore.
These are the seasons when (as described in _Wild Spain_) one sees the
waterfowl in their fullest abundance. On the present occasion (1910) we
were to witness converse conditions. Throughout the preceding winter the
fountains of heaven had been stayed, nor did the advent of spring bring
one hour of rain. By mid-March the marisma was practically waterless--a
fortnight later, sunbaked hard as bricks. Where now were the
marsh-birds? In April or May you could ride a long day over arid
mud-flats and never see a wing, bar, in the latter month, a few Kentish
plovers and fluttering pratincoles[67]--add a band or two of croaking
sand-grouse (_Pterocles alchata_) passing in the high heavens. Where had
the exiled myriads gone? No man can answer.

We are not so foolish as attempt to say; but we do venture to express
the opinion that in years when even wildest Spain refuses asylum to wild
creatures such as these, the result to them can only represent an
overwhelming catastrophe. For there lies before them no alternative
refuge; their races must perish by wholesale.

At those rare points where permanent waters remained one might look for
great concentrations of bird-life, yet such was not the case. As
indicated, the bulk had foreseen the event and abandoned this country.

One phenomenon struck us as inexplicable. Of the birds that did remain
none displayed the slightest symptom of yielding to the vernal impulse,
of pairing, or of desiring to nest.

Flamingoes, for example (what few there were), continued massed in solid
herds up to mid-May. A band of 300 that we examined closely on the 12th
at the Caño de la Junquera (though fully 90 per cent were adults in
perfect pink feather) contained not a single paired couple. Hard by the
flamingoes some forty or fifty spoonbills were feeding. These, last
year, nested at this spot, building upon or among the low
samphire-scrub--a dangerously open situation for such big and
conspicuous birds. This spring, though many remained in the marisma, not
a spoonbill nested in the district at all. Flamingoes, by the way, had
exhibited extreme restlessness throughout the spring. On February 22,
for example, while steaming up the Straits of Gibraltar, we detected
them in quite incredible numbers but at an altitude almost beyond the
range even of prism-glasses--it was a dim similitude to drifting _cirri_
that first caught our eye. So vast was their aërial elevation that it
was only after prolonged examination we at length recognised those
revolving grey specks as being birds at all; presently a nearer band,
directly overhead, revealed their characteristic identity. The bulk of
these held a southerly tendency, towards Africa; others drifted
undecided; while several bands, halting between two opinions, when lost
to sight were wheeling beyond the Spanish hills.

Ducks also in mid-May serried the skies in utterly anachronous
skeins--reminiscent of winter. These were largely marbled ducks, all
unpaired; but there were also very large aggregations of mallards. One
such pack on May 10 certainly counted 500--a number we never remember to
have seen massed together in Spain before, not even in winter. This was
at the Hondon. A similar phenomenon was observed with the white-faced
ducks. These curious creatures also remained in packs, and without sign
of pairing, on the open waters of Santolalla--open only because aquatic
plants had forborne to grow. In normal seasons these lakes are studded
with great cane-brakes and islanded reed-jungles, within whose recesses
these amphibians build their floating homes. This spring not a reed had
grown--partly owing to cattle having destroyed the earlier shoots which
are usually protected by deep water. There was literally no covert
within which these ducks (and the swarming coots and grebes) could
breed, even were they so minded--which they were not!

The only ducks that had paired in earnest were gadwall, garganey, common
and white-eyed pochard (of which the first three nest here in very
limited numbers), together with normal quantities of mallard.


The frontal plate is concave, whereas in the common coot it is convex.]

A collateral result of the shortage of water wrought yet further havoc
among the birds which had elected to remain, and accentuated the
prescience of those that had departed. Nesting-places, ordinarily
islanded in mid-water, were now left stranded on dry land and thus open
to the ravages of the whole fraternity of four-footed egg-devouring
vermin. Many species, we know, foresee such risks and invariably avoid
them; others, less prudent, make the attempt and lose their labour. The
white-eyed pochards, for example, which are accustomed to nest in
islanded clumps of rush and dense aquatic grasses, this year simply
provided free breakfasts to rats and ichneumons! We happened to require
two or three settings of these ducks to hatch-off under hens, but no
sooner did a marked nest contain three or four eggs than all were
devoured! As to the coots, of which both the common and crested species
breed in the marisma in myriads, they simply gave it up as a bad
business. They did not depart, but resigned themselves to the necessity
of skipping a season.

Gulls, great and small, with graceful marsh-terns, floated
spectre-like, surveying in solitude and silence arid wastes where before
they had found aquatic Edens. Once or twice we also noticed the small
white herons (buff-backed and egret) flying disconsolately over their
lost homes. A similar remark would apply to most of the other
marsh-breeders--we need not recapitulate them all. Stilts, for example,
and avocets remained perforce in single blessedness--the latter in noisy
querulous bands, quite wild and showing no tendency to assume spring
notes or habits. We _did_ chance on a single avocet's nest, where, in
other years, we have found hundreds. The same with the stilts--they also
retained winter ways. Curiously on May 17--one wet day--two male stilts
had a regular set-to over an irresponsive female; the only symptom of
their love-making we noticed all that spring!

[Illustration: AVOCETS FEEDING

Though long-legged, these are half-webfooted and swim freely.]

Here, in the very height of what ought to have been the breeding-season,
we had all these birds (and many others), instead of hovering overhead
and shrieking in one's ear, flying wild in great packs at 100 yards.

How came it to pass that the normal vernal impulse was neglected for a
whole season, unfelt and unrecognised--what was the precise
psychological reason? It reads ridiculous to assume that any feathered
husband should deliberately remark: "Now, Angelina, don't you agree that
it would be imprudent our attempting to raise a family this
drought-struck season?" Nor could the neglect arise from physical
weakness, since the birds were strong and wild. Such specimens as we
shot proved plump and well favoured, though the generative organs
disclosed a hybernal obsolescence. One explanation--indeed a
rough-and-ready diagnosis that seemed to cover the ground--was given by
Vasquez. Now Vasquez is our Guarda of the marisma; he is not scientific,
but has been in charge of the wilderness and its wildfowl these thirty
years and, more than all, he is observant. This rough keeper perhaps
understands the inner lives of wildfowl, with the causes that actuate
their movements and habits, better than our best scientists, and Vasquez
told us in February: "This year no birds will breed here; the conditions
necessary to _calientár los ovários_ [literally, to warm up the ovaries]
are wanting." The subsequent course of events, corroborated by the
evidence of dissection, proved the correctness of his forecast.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment we return to the white-faced ducks--no European bird-form
less known, or more extravagant. With heavy, swollen beaks, quite
disproportionate in size and pale waxy-blue in colour, with white heads,
black necks, and rich chestnut bodies, their tiny wings (as well as the
sheeny silken plumage) recall those of grebes, but they have long stiff
tails like cormorants, and are more tenacious of the water than either
of those. To push them on wing is well-nigh impossible. They seek safety
in the middle waters and there abide, ignoring threats. To-day, however
(May 16), we needed specimens, and by hustling their company between
three guns, two mounted keepers, and an old boat that leaked like a
sieve we eventually forced them to fly and secured three. They flew
entirely in packs (not pairs), rarely many feet above the surface, but
with a speed little inferior to pochard or other diving-ducks.
Dissection showed that in a female the ovaries had not begun to develop,
there were no ripe ova, nor had the oviduct been used. The _testes_ in
both the males proved also that here these birds were not yet breeding,
or thinking of doing so.

A week earlier, however, at another lake of quite different formation
and different plant-growth (thirty miles away), we had found these
singular waterfowl already nesting, and append a note of that day:--

[Illustration: WHITE-FACED DUCK (_Erísmatura leucocephala_). See also p.

LAGUNA DE LAS TERAJES, _May 8._--A lonely lagoon hidden away in a
saucer-shaped basin amidst sequestered downs; almost the entire extent
(twenty acres) choked with dense cane-brakes and thick green reeds which
stood six or eight feet above water. We had driven hither, nine miles,
across sandy heaths and pine-wood; and while breakfasting on the shore
our two canoes (carted here yesterday) were got afloat. Meanwhile, on a
patch of open water we had observed several white-faced ducks swimming,
deeply immersed, and with their long stiff tails cocked upright at
intervals, together with some eared grebes; while marsh-harriers slowly
quartered the brakes and the reed-beds rang with the harsh nasal notes
of the great sedge-warbler. On pushing out into the aquatic jungle
ahead--no light labour with five feet of water encumbered with densely
matted canes and the dead tangle of former growths--we soon fell in with
nests of all the species above mentioned and several more. Those of the
white-faced ducks consisted, first, of a big floating platform of broken
canes, upon which was piled a mass of fine dried "duck-weed"--the coots'
nests being formed of flags and reeds alone. None of the ducks' nests
contained eggs; probably the season was too early (in other years we
have found their great white eggs, rough-grained, about the third week
in May), but possibly the harriers had forestalled us, as we found one
egg floating alongside. The grebes were just beginning to lay; their
nests, composed of rotten floatage, all awash and malodorous, containing
one to three eggs. Next we found two nests of marsh-harriers, immense
masses of dead flags, two feet high, supported on floating canes and
lined with sticks, heather-stalks, and palmetto. One had four eggs,
hard-sat; the other, two eggs, chipping, and two small young in white
down, with savage black eyes. The harriers' eggs are usually dull white;
in one nest found this year, however, the eggs were spotted with pale
red--apparently blood-stains. Hard by were two nests of the purple
water-hen, both of which had obviously been recently robbed by the
harriers next door.

These curious birds climb the tall green reeds parrot-wise, grasping
four or five at once in their long, supple, heavily clawed toes; then
with their powerful red beaks neatly cut down the reeds a yard or more
above water, in order to feed on the tender pith. Here and there float
masses of these cut-down reeds, split and emptied--_comederos_, the
natives call such spots. But the birds are silly enough to cut down the
very reeds that surround their nests--thus exposing the huge piled-up
structures to the gaze of their truculent neighbour, the egg-loving
marsh-harrier. Instinct badly at fault here.

With a degree more intelligence, the purple water-hens might at least
retaliate, by watching their opportunity and mopping-up the harriers'
young. They are amply equipped for such work, having great pincer-like
beaks fit to cut barbed wire!

On the other hand, the great purple water-hens habitually do a bit
robbery and murder on their own account, plundering the nests both of
ducks and coots and devouring eggs or young alike. We shot one whose
beak was smeared all over with yolk from a plundered duck's nest hard
by, and alongside the nest of a _Porphyrio_ with five eggs (found May 1)
lay floating the head-less corpses of two young coots. We have also
observed similar phenomena alongside the nests of the coots
themselves--doubtless attributable to the same cause. The eggs of the
purple water-hen are lovely objects, ruddier and much more richly
coloured than those of any of its congeners. These birds remain in the
marismas all winter.

In the densest brake bred purple herons, but this part proved quite
impenetrable to canoes. A few days later, however, at the Retuerta, we
reached a little colony of three nests. A beautiful sight they
presented, broad platforms of criss-crossed canes, cleverly supported on
tall bamboos, and lined with the flowering tops of _carrizos_ (canes).
These three nests were close together (another or two hard by), were
about five feet above water-level, and contained three, three, and four
pale-blue eggs. While circling around their nests, the old herons showed
a conspicuous projection beneath their curved necks. We therefore shot
one and found the effect was caused by a curious "kink" or bony process
on the front of the upper neck--as sketched.

Of other birds observed at this Laguna de Terajes may be noted a few
mallard and marbled ducks, a pair of squacco herons (not breeding),
common sandpipers (on May 8), and a party of whiskered terns which
arrived while we were there.

The day we had spent among the marsh-birds at this sequestered lagoon
happened to be the day of the general election and the usual excitement
prevailed. Yet, as we journeyed down by the early train, we had read in
the morning's paper this paragraph: "An understanding"
[_Inteligencia_]--"Yesterday an understanding was arrived at in Madrid
between Maura and Cañalejas, by which the former is to hold 225 seats."
Why, after that, bother further with an election? 'Twill serve as an
object-lesson at home.

[Illustration: PURPLE HERON (_Ardea purpurea_)]

Another phenomenon of the Spanish marismas is the through-transit in May
of that little group of world-wanderers that make a winter-home in the
southern hemisphere--in South Africa and Madagascar, Australia, New
Zealand, some even in Patagonia--and yet return each spring to summer in
Arctic regions. These comprise, notably, but four species, and not one
of these four, in our view, is excelled for perfect beauty of bright,
chaste, and contrasted coloration by any other bird-form on earth. This
quartette is composed of the grey plover, knot, curlew-sandpiper, and
bartailed godwit--all four of which appear here in thousands every May,
and all in summer dress.

Note, first, that these do not arrive in Spain (having come 6000 or 8000
miles but being still 2000 or 3000 miles short of their final
destination) until long after all other birds--including several
congeneric and closely related species--have already laid their eggs and
many hatched their young. Also, secondly, that some of them begin to
assume their spring breeding-plumage under autumnal conditions _before_
quitting Australia in April--that is, the Australian autumn--and while
yet some 10,000 miles distant from the points at which that
breeding-dress is designed to be worn.

To the four named might properly be added other two species--the
sanderling and the little stint. Our only reason for confining our
remarks to the original quartette is that, in Spain, the transit of the
other two is less pronounced and noticeable.

Last spring (1910), dry as the marismas were, we had these
globe-spanners in thousands. They were extremely wild, and it was only
by elaborate "drives" that we secured a few specimens.[68] We also
observed in mid-May hundreds of _black_-tailed godwits, a species which
usually disappears from southern Spain at end of March and which we have
found nesting in Jutland _before_ the above date, viz. the first week in

[Illustration: GREY PLOVERS

In summer plumage, on route for Siberia--Marisma, May 12.]

Whimbrels had been extremely abundant early in May, together with a few
greenshanks, ring-dotterel, and green sandpiper. On May 13 we observed
several of the Mediterranean black-headed gull (_Larus melanocephalus_)
on Santolalla.

     [NOTE.--Referring to the last sentence, our companion, Commander H.
     Lynes, R. N., writes:--"All the gulls I saw on Santolalla I am
     positive were _L. ridibundus_, and I looked most carefully. The
     wing-pattern of _melanocephalus_ is very distinct. With the latter
     I became quite familiar in the Mediterranean in winter, and also
     saw them in late summer at Smyrna." We, nevertheless, leave our own
     record as above, being confident that such gulls as happened to
     come within our own view were _exclusively_ of the southern
     species, with its darker and deeper hood. But the occurrence of our
     British Black-headed Gull so far south in mid-May is also
     remarkable. That species, though abundant all winter, has
     disappeared, as a rule, by the end of March. Our own last note of
     observing it during the spring in question was on April 1. We may
     add a further note of having observed _both_ species (swimming
     alongside) on Guadalquivir, March 12, 1909. The distinction, alike
     in the depth and darker shade of the "hood" in _L. melanocephalus_,
     was unmistakable, even to naked eye.]

This dry spring not a spoonbill nested in Andalucia. The teeming
_pajaréras_, or heronries, at the Rocina de la Madre and in Doñana were
left lifeless and abandoned. In normal years these are tenanted (as
shown in photo at p. 32) by countless multitudes of buff-backed,
squacco, and night-herons, glossy ibis, some purple herons, and a few
pairs of spoonbills, whose massed nests fairly weigh down the marsh-girt

[Illustration: ORPHEAN WARBLER (_Sylvia orphea_)

Arrives end of April; hardly so brilliant a songster as its specific
title would import.]



Spain is a land where one can enjoy seeing in their everyday life those
"rare" British birds that at home can only be seen in books or museums.
So far as it can be done in half-a-dozen brief sketches, we will
endeavour to illustrate this.


Spanish towns and villages are self-contained like the "fenced cities"
of Biblical days. The _pueblecitos_ of the sierra show up as a concrete
splash of white on the brown hillside. Once outside the gates you are in
the _campo_ = the country. Even Jerez with its 60,000 inhabitants boasts
no suburban zone. Within half an hour's walk one may witness scenes in
wild bird-life for the like of which home-staying naturalists sigh in
vain. We are at our "home-marsh," a mile or two away: it is
mid-February. Within fifteen yards a dozen stilts stalk in the shallows;
hard by is a group of godwits, some probing the ooze, the rest preening
in eccentric outstretched poses. Beyond, the drier shore is adorned by
snow-white egrets (_Ardea bubulcus_), some perched on our cattle,
relieving their tick-tormented hides.

Thus, within less than fifty yards, we have in view three of the rarest
and most exquisite of British birds. And the list can be prolonged. A
marsh-harrier in menacing flight, his broad wings brushing the
bulrushes, sweeps across the bog, startling a mallard and snipes; there
are storks and whimbrels in sight (the latter possibly slender-billed
curlew), and a pack of lesser bustard crouch within 500 yards in the
palmettos. From a marsh-drain springs a green sandpiper; and as we take
our homeward way, serenaded by bull-frogs and mole-crickets, there
resounds overhead the clarion-note of cranes cleaving their way due


Within an easy half-day's ride from X. lie the cliffs of Chipipi, rising
in crenellated tiers from the winding river at their base. It is a
lovely May morning. Doves in dozens dash away as we ride through groves
of white poplars, and the soft air is filled with their murmurous
chorus; the bush-clad banks are vocal with the song of orioles and
nightingales, cuckoos, and a score of warblers--Cetti's and orphean,
Sardinian, polyglotta, Bonelli's. The handsome rufous warbler, though
not much of a songster, is everywhere conspicuous, flirting a
boldly-barred, fan-shaped tail that catches one's eye. There are
woodchats, serins, hoopoes; azure-blue rollers squawk, and brilliant
bee-eaters poise and chatter overhead--their nest-burrows perforate the
river-bank like a sand-martins' colony. On willow-clad eyots nest lesser
ring-dotterels and otters bask; while in the shaded depths beneath the
fringing osiers lurk barbel intent to dash at belated grasshopper or

[Illustration: SAVI'S WARBLER (_Sylcia savii_)

A spring-migrant, common but very local. Has eggs by mid-April.]

In a thick lentiscos is the nest of a great grey shrike, and while we
watch, its owner flies up carrying a lizard in her beak. Half an hour
later we see a second shrike, with falcon-like dash, capture another
lizard basking in a sunny cranny among the rocks--no mean performance
that. There are snakes here also; one we killed, a coluber, on March 31,
was 5-1/2 feet long and contained two rabbits swallowed whole and head
first--one partly digested. Another snake, quite small, struck us as
being something new; him we bottled in spirit and despatched to the
British Museum. Presently came the reply, thanking us for a "Lizard,
_Blanus cinereus_." Lizard? Well, we learnt a lesson. There are limbless
lizards, and this was one--the subterranean amphisbaena; our British
blindworm (_Anguis fragilis_) is another, and that also we did not know
before. There are curious reptiles here in Spain--the chameleon, for
example. The lobe-footed gecko, _Salamanquésa_ in Spanish, haunts sunny
rocks where insects abound. But he carries war into the enemy's camp,
invading (not singly, but in force) the wild-bees' nests. A Spanish
bee-keeper gravely assured us that the cold-blooded gecko does this
thing expressly to enjoy the sensation of being stung in twenty places
at once! Here in a shady glade lie strewn broadcast the wings of
butterflies--examine very closely the bush above, and presently an
iris-less eye, expressionless as a grey pearl, will meet your own. That
is a praying mantis (or _Santa Teresa_ in Spanish), a practical insect
but no aesthete, since he devours the ugly body and casts aside the
beauteous wings!--see his portrait at p. 87. Among butterflies we
counted here the scarce swallowtail, _Thaïs polyxena_ (hatching out on
April 3), _Vanessa polychloros_, a big fritillary with blood-red
under-surface to its fore-wings (_Argynnis maia_, Cramer),
_Euchloëbelia_ (March) and the curious insect figured alongside, we know
not what it is.[69]


For more than thirty years within our knowledge (and probably for
centuries before) these cliffs have formed a home of Bonelli's eagle.
Two huge stick-built nests stand out in visible projection from crevices
in the crag, some forty yards apart. To-day (April 3) the occupied eyrie
contained a down-clad eaglet, four partridges, and half a rabbit,
besides a partridge's egg, intact, and sundry scraps of flesh, all quite
fresh. The nest was lined with green olive-twigs; swarms of
carrion-flies buzzed around, and a great tortoiseshell butterfly alit on
its edge while we were yet inside. The parent eagles soared overhead,
the female carrying a half rabbit, which, in her impatience, she
presently commenced to devour, the pair perching on a dead ilex, and
affording us this sketch and another inserted at p. 26. Her white
breast shone in the sun with a satin-like sheen.

Within sight (though fifteen miles away) is another eyrie of this
species--the alternative nests not ten feet apart, merely a projecting
buttress of rock separating the two vertical fissures in which they
rest. This site is in a rock-stack standing out from the wooded slope of
the sierra. The two eggs, slightly blotched with red, were laid in

The rough bush-clad hills above our cliff are preserved, and presently
meeting the gamekeeper, we tried--(that daily toll of four partridges
plus sundry rabbits had got on our consciences!)--to put in a word for
our eagle-friends, assuring him they did him service by destroying
snakes and big lizards (which they don't). "Si, señor," he agreed,
adding, "y los insectos!"


Note white patch in centre of back, between the wings.]

Farther along the cliff we found two nests of neophron, each containing
two very handsome eggs. This bird makes a comfortable home, the
foundation being of sticks, but with a warmly lined central saucer,
bedecked with old bones, snakes' vertebrae, rabbit-skulls, and similar
ornaments. The nests were on overhung shelves of the vertical crag, and
(like those of the eagles) only accessible by rope. There lay a rat in
one--and rather "high."

Remaining denizens of these crags we can but briefly name. A pair of
eagle-owls had three young (fully fledged by June 10) in a deep
rock-fissure; there were also ravens, many lesser kestrels, and a colony
of genets.


Cistus and tree-heath, genista and purple heather that brushes your
shoulder as you ride, studded with groves of cork-oak--such was our
hunting-field. The reader's patience shall not be abused by a catalogue
of ornithological fact. True, we were studying bird-problems, and at the
moment the writer was endeavouring, amidst ten-foot scrub, to locate by
its song, a nest of Polyglotta--or was it _Bonellii_?--when in the
depths of osmunda fern was descried something _hairy_--it was a
wild-boar!... Three horsemen armed with _garrochas_ come galloping
through the bush--herdsmen rounding-up cattle? But this morning it is a
_bull_ they are rounding-up; and a bull that had grown so savage and
intractable that his life was forfeit. A crash in the brushwood and we
stand face to face. Three minutes later that bull fell dead with two
balls in his body; but two others, less well aimed, had whistled past
our ears. Those three minutes had been momentous--the choice, it had
seemed, lay between horn and bullet. Bird-nesting in Spanish wilds has
its serious side.

The afternoon was less eventful. Almost each islanded grove had yielded
spoil. We need not specify spectacled, subalpine, and orphean warblers,
woodpeckers, woodchats and grey shrikes, nightjars, owls, kestrels, and
kites--some prizes demanding patient watching, others a strenuous climb.
The last hour had resulted in discovering a nest of booted eagle, two of
black, and one of red kites, each with two eggs (the next tree held a
nest of the latter containing a youngster near full grown). We had
turned to ride homewards when, over a centenarian cork-oak on the
horizon, we recognised (by their buoyant flight and white undersides) a
pair of serpent-eagles. The grotesque old tree was half overthrown, and
on its topmost limb was established the snake-eaters' eyrie, containing
the usual single big white egg--this specimen, however, distinctly
splashed with reddish brown. In the same tree were also breeding cushats
and doves, a woodpecker with four eggs, and a swarm of bees who made
things lively for the climber. One of to-day's climbs, by the way, had
resulted incidentally in the capture of a family of dormice, _Lirones
avellanos_ in Spanish, handsome creatures with immense whiskers and
arrayed in contrasts of rich brown, black and white.

Half an hour later we descried the unmistakable eyrie of an imperial
eagle--a platform of sticks that crowned the summit of a huge cork-oak,
the more conspicuous since any projecting twigs that might interrupt the
view are always broken off. The eagle, entirely black with white
shoulders, only soared aloft when L. was already half-way up. The two
handsome eggs we left, though they have since, presumably, added two
more "detrimentals" to prey on our partridges. Eagles, so soon as adult,
pair for life; but that condition may require several years for full
attainment, and in the imperial eagle the adolescent period is passed in
a distinctive uniform of rich chestnut. So long ago as 1883, however, we
discovered the singular fact that this species breeds while yet
(apparently) "immature." That is, we have frequently found one of a
nesting pair in the paler plumage described, while its mate gloried in
the rich sable-black of maturity, as sketched on p. 31. This year (1910)
we had come across such a couple--they had two eggs on March 15--the
male being black, while his partner was parti-coloured. A curious
incident had occurred at that nest; at dawn next morning a griffon
vulture was discovered asleep close alongside the sitting eagle. But on
the arrival of the husband a furious scene ensued! The intruder (whom we
acquit of dishonourable intent) was set upon, hustled, and violently
ejected from the tree--hurriedly and dishevelled he departed. But
conjugal peace was soon restored, and presently the royal pair set out
in company for a morning's hunting.

These resident birds-of-prey breed early. We have found the eagles' eggs
by February 28, buzzards' on March 12, and red kites' on March 14.

This spring was remarkable for the numbers of hobbies that passed north
during May, sometimes in regular flocks. They often roosted in old
kites' nests, and when disturbed therefrom misled us into a futile

       *       *       *       *       *

WHITE-TAILED OR SEA-EAGLE (_Haliaëtos albicilla_).--This does not
properly belong to the Spanish zone. We cannot find recorded a single
authentic instance of its occurrence in that country, but can supply one

In the early days of February 1898 we watched on several occasions an
eagle (which at the time we took to be Bonelli's) wildly chasing the
geese that are wont to assemble in front of our shooting-lodge. Splendid
spectacles these aerial hunts afforded. The selected goose, skilfully
separated from his company, made a grand defence. Fast he flew and far,
now low on water, now soaring upwards in widening circle; but all the
time gaggling and protesting against the outrage in strident tones that
we could hear a mile away. Never, so far as eyesight could reach, did
the assailant make good his hold.

Months afterwards--it was before daybreak on December 28 (1898)--the
authors lay awaiting the "early flight" of geese at the Puntal, hard by,
when an eagle (whether the same or not) appeared from out the gloom,
made a feint at No. 1's decoy-geese (made of wood), passed on and fairly
"stooped" at those of No. 2. A moment later the great bird-of-prey fell
with resounding splash, and proved to be (so far as we know) the only
sea-eagle ever shot in Spain--a female, weight 12-1/2 lbs., expanse just
under 8 feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is not the only instance in our experience of eagles hunting before
the dawn. We recall several others. Apparently, if pressed by hunger,
eagles start business early--almost as early as we do ourselves.

SPOTTED EAGLE (_Aquila naevia_).--This also, like the last, is scarcely
a Spanish species; but a beautiful example, heavily spotted, was shot in
September in the Pinar de San Fernando by our friend Mr. Osborne of
Puerto Sta. Maria. It was one of a pair.

on a mesembrianthemum-clad knoll during a big-game drive, troops of
partridges kept streaming out from the covert behind. Their demeanour
struck both me and the next gun posted on a knoll 200 yards away. Across
the intervening glade, almost bare sand but for a stray tuft of rush or
marram-grass, the partridge ran to and fro in a dazed sort of way,
crouching flat as though terror-stricken, or standing upright, gazing
stupidly in turn. None dared to fly, though some were so near they could
not have failed to detect me. The mystery was solved when a peregrine
swept close overhead and made feint after feint: yet not a partridge
would rise. Well they knew that the falcon would not strike _on the
ground_; but what a "soft job" it would have been for a goshawk or
marsh-harrier! Presumably partridge discriminate between their winged
enemies and in each case adapt defence to fit attack.

An interesting scene was terminated by a lynx trotting out by my
neighbour, Sir Maurice de Bunsen, who might thus have been taken
unawares; only ambassadors are never believed to be so, and on this
occasion the spotted diplomat certainly got the ball quite right, behind
the shoulder.

MARSH-HARRIER (_Circus aeruginosus_).--Over dark wastes resound
"duck-guns sullenly booming." Thereat from reed-bed and cane-brake
awaken roosting harriers, quick to realise the import. It is long before
their normal "hours of business," but these miss no chances, and soon
the hidden gunner descries spectral forms drifting in the gloom--all
intent to share his spoils. Watch the robbers' methods. In the deep a
winged teal is making away, almost swash. The raptor feints again and
again, following the cripple's subaquatic course; but he never attempts
to strike till incessant diving has worn the victim out. Then--so soon
as the luckless teal is compelled to tarry five seconds above
water--instantly those terrible talons close like a rat-trap. Next comes
a lively wigeon, merely wing-tipped; but the water here is shoal and the
hawk dare not close. For the volume of mud and spray thrown up by those
whirling pinions would drench his own plumage. The wigeon realises his
advantage and sticks to the shallow--the raptor ever trying to force him
to the deep. The end comes all the same, though the process of
tiring-out occupies longer--sooner or later, down drop the yellow
legs--there is a moment of strenuous struggle and the duck is lifted and
borne ashore. Should no land be near, the branches of a submerged
samphire will serve for a dining-table. Within five minutes nought is
left but empty skin and clean-picked bones.

Obviously any attempt to seek dead at a distance or to recover cripples
is labour lost--once they drift, or swim, or dive, to the danger-radius
instantly the chattel passes to the rival "sphere of influence."

As early as February (and sometimes even in January) the abounding coots
begin to lay. The marsh-harrier notes the date and becomes a determined
oologist. Over the everlasting samphire-swamp resounds the reverberating
cry of the crested coot, _Hoo, hoo, Hoo, hoo_, so strikingly human that
one looks round to see who is signalling. Presently you hear the same
cry, but wailing in different tone and temper. That is a coot defending
hearth and home against the despoiler; and bravely is that defence
maintained. With a glass, one sees the coot throw herself on her back
and hold the hawk at bay, striking out right and left, for she has
powerful claws and can scratch like a cat. Often the assailant is fairly
beaten off; or should the fight end without visible issue, probably the
coveted eggs have been hustled overboard in the tussle. Then it amuses
to watch the harrier's frantic efforts to recover the sunken prizes from
the shallows.


GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO (_Oxylophus glandarius_).--A striking rakish form,
this stranger from unknown Africa silently appears in Spain during the
closing days of February or early in March. On the fifth evening of the
latter month, while rambling in the bush on the watch for "some new
thing," a hawk-like figure swept by and perched on the outer branches of
a thorny acacia. When shot, the bird dropped a yard or so, then
clutching a bough with prehensile zygodactylic claws, hung suspended
with so desperate a hold that it was with difficulty released. Waiting a
few minutes, a harsh resonant scream--_cheer-oh_, thrice
repeated--announced the arrival of the male, which fell winged on a
patch of bog beyond. Ere we could reach the spot the bird had run back,
regained the outer trees, and was climbing a willow-trunk more in the
style of parrot than cuckoo. The beak was used for steadying, and so
fast did it climb that we had to ascend after it.

The beak in this species opens far back, giving a very wide gape--colour
inside pink, deepening to dark carmine. We sketched and preserved both
specimens, see p. 41 and above.

       *       *       *       *       *

As a rule this cuckoo disappears in early autumn, but we have an
exceptional record of its occurrence in winter. One was shot at San
Lucar de Barraméda, December 19, 1909.

This cuckoo, like all its old-world congeners,[70] is parasitic in its
domestic _ménage_--that is, it adopts a system of reproduction by
proxy--relying, as Canon Tristram long ago put it, on finding a
"foundling hospital" for its young. But even the keen intellect quoted
was at first at fault. For the great spotted cuckoo differs in one
essential point from that "wandering voice" with which we are familiar
at home. The latter deposits a single egg in casual nest of titlark,
hedge-sparrow, wagtail--in short, of any small bird, regardless of the
fact that its own egg may differ conspicuously from those of its
selected foster-parent. The spotted cuckoo is more circumspect.
Everywhere it restricts the delegated duty to some member of the
_Corvidae_,[71] and in Spain exclusively to the magpies. Moreover,
whether by accident or evolution, the cuckoo has so admirably adapted
the coloration of its own egg to resemble that of its victim, as to
deceive even so cute a bird as the magpie. Earlier ornithologists (as
above suggested) failed for a moment to distinguish the difference--it
was, in fact, the zygodactylic foot of an unhatched embryo that first
betrayed the secret (Tristram, _Ibis_, 1859). On close examination the
cuckoo's eggs differ in their more elliptic form and granular surface;
but, unless previously fore-warned and specially alert, no one would
suspect that these were not magpies' eggs, any more than does the magpie

The spotted cuckoo deposits two, three, and even four eggs in the _same_
magpie's nest, sometimes leaving the lawful owner's eggs undisturbed, in
other cases removing all or part of them--we have noticed spilt yoke at
the entrance. It would appear difficult, in these domed nests, for the
young cuckoos to eject their pseudo-brothers and sisters; but this
detail of their life-history remains, as yet, unsolved.

CROSSBILLS.--Nature delights in presenting phenomena which no tangible
cause appears to warrant. Such were the thrice-repeated invasions of
Europe by "Tartar hordes"--they were only sand-grouse--that occurred
during the past century (in 1863, 1872, and 1888); and in 1909 an
analogous problem, though on minor scale, was offered by crossbills.
From north to extreme south of our Continent these small forest-dwellers
precipitated themselves bodily westwards. This was in July. All the
west-European countries, from Norway to Spain, recorded an unwonted
irruption. In Andalucia (at Jerez) crossbills were first noticed about
mid-July, and their appearance so impressed country-folk little
accustomed to discriminate small birds, as to suggest to them the idea
that the strangers must have fled from Morocco to avoid the fighting
then raging around Melilla! But in Spain a further and anomalous
complexity followed. For the Spanish specimens we sent home, on being
submitted to Dr. Ernst Hartert, proved to belong to a purely Spanish
subspecies--a race distinguishable by its weaker mandibles and other
minor variations. Hence the movement in Spain had been purely internal,
and it became difficult to suppose that (although simultaneous) it could
have been predisposed and actuated by precisely the same motives as
those which compelled a more extensive exodus farther north. Thus
results the curious issue--that presumably different causes, operating
over a wide geographical area, produced similar and simultaneous
effects. These immigrant crossbills disappeared from Andalucia at the
end of August.

[Illustration: CROSSBILLS, ADULT AND YOUNG (_Loxia curvirostra_.)

JEREZ, July 1910.]

Crossbills we used to observe in winter in our pine-forests of Doñana;
but owing to local causes they have now missed several years. Their
migrations within Spain are rather on the vertical than the horizontal
plane--that is, merely seasonal movements between the higher lands and
the lower. In Spain, denuded of natural forest, the habitat of such
birds is narrowly restricted. Hence their sudden appearance in new
areas (such as this, at forestless Jerez) is at once conspicuous.

GLOSSY IBIS (_Plegadis falcinellus_).--Birds, as a rule, are strict
geographists. They recognise fixed range-boundaries and abide thereby.
But exceptions occur, and an instance has been offered by the glossy
ibis. This bird has always been a conspicuous member of the teeming
_pajaréras_, or mixed heronries, of our wooded swamps of Andalucia. But
it was only as a spring-migrant that the ibis was known. It arrived in
April and departed, after nesting, in September. A diluvial winter in
1907-8, however, apparently induced it to reconsider its "standing
orders." Already, that autumn, the ibises had departed--as usual. But in
December (the whole country meanwhile having been inundated) they
suddenly reappeared. Small parties distributed themselves over the
marismas, and with them came an unwonted profusion of other waders,
stilts and curlews, whimbrels and godwits, the latter a month or two
before their usual date. All availed the occasion to frequent far-inland
spots, normally dry bush and forest, _nota quae sedes fuerat columbis_,
and one saw flights of waders and even ducks, such as teal and shoveler,
circling over flooded forest-glades.

The changed quarters evidently met with approval, for each succeeding
year since then we have had the company of ibises _during winter_.

An immature ibis, shot January 30, otherwise in normal plumage, had the
head and neck brownish grey with curlew-like striations.

SLENDER-BILLED CURLEW (_Numenius tenuirostris_).--Years ago we wrote in
our wrath, moved thereto by the constant misuse of the term, that such a
thing as a "rare bird" does not exist, save only in a relative sense. Go
to its proper home, wherever that may be, and the supposed rarity is
found abundant as its own utility and nature's balances permit. Should
some lost wanderer straggle a few hundred miles thence, it is proclaimed
a "rare bird."

Against this, our old mentor, Howard Saunders, wrote across the
proof-sheet: "There ARE rare birds, some nearly extinct"; and the above
species affords an admirable example of these exceptions to the general

No one at present knows the true home of the slender-billed curlew, nor
the points (if any) where it is common, nor where it breeds. In southern
Spain it appears every year during February and at no other season;
while even then its visits are confined to a few days and to certain
limited areas. The photo at p. 250 shows a beautiful pair shot February
5, 1898. When met with, they are rather conspicuous birds,
distinguishable from whimbrel by their paler colour--indeed, on rising,
the "slender-bills" look almost white. A specially favoured haunt in the
Coto Doñana is the bare sandy flat in front of Martinazo.

When we first studied ornithology there still remained whole categories
of birds (many of them abundant British species) whose breeding-places
were utterly unknown.

One by one they have been removed from the list of "missing," forced to
surrender their secrets by the resistless, world-scouring energy of
ornithologists (mostly British). The year 1909 saw but ONE species yet
undiscovered--our present friend, the slender-billed curlew.

While we are yet busy with this book, the eggs of the slender-billed
curlew have been found--in Siberia!--the ultimate answer in all such
cases. The first was exhibited by Mr. H. E. Dresser at the meeting of
the British Ornithologists' Club on December 15, 1909, having been taken
by Mr. P. A. Schastowskij on the shores of Lake Tschany, near
Taganowskiye, in Siberia on the 20th of May preceding.

Yes, there _do_ exist "rare birds," and in Europe the slender-billed
curlew appears to be an excellent illustration of the fact.

SANTOLALLA, _December 29, 1897_.--A wild night, black as ink, and a
whole gale blowing from the eastward; an hour's ride through the scrub,
and five guns silently distribute themselves along the shores. Strategic
necessity placed us to windward, so most fowl were bound to fall in the
water. As stars pale to the dawn the flight begins, the dark skies
hurtle with the rush of passing clouds, and for two hours a steady
fusillade startles the solitude.

As ten o'clock approaches, one by one we seek the cork-oak, from beneath
whose canopy a welcome column of smoke has long announced that breakfast
was preparing. But considering the run of shooting we have heard, the
toll of game brought in seems humiliating. Each gunner, gloomily
depositing his fifteen or twenty, declares he has lost twice that number
in the open water!... Well, a list of "claims" being drawn up, it
appears that 205 duck are stated to have been shot, while only 120 can
be counted. In his inner conscience possibly each man regards the rest
as ... but, ere breakfast is over, here come the keepers. They have
ridden round the lee-shores and islets, and bring in another 114!

The bag after all sums up to 234, or actually nineteen more than the
sum-total of claims that we had been laughing at as extravagant. This is
the list:--

    2 geese
    8 mallard
   53 wigeon
  152 teal
    4 gadwall
    2 shoveler
    3 pochard
    9 tufted duck

There were also shot two cormorants (mistaken for geese in the
half-light), a marsh-harrier, two great crested grebes, and several

The incident illustrates an instance of scrupulous honesty.


(A Sentiment about Wildfowl)

(_January 1909._)

A wet winter and flooded marisma--under our eyes float wildfowl in
league-long lengths; countless, but far out in open water. By experience
we know them to be unassailable. Yet these hosts seem to throw down the
gauntlet of defiance at our very doors; and under the reproach of that
unspoken challenge experience succumbs. That night we arranged to
dispose our six guns over a two-league triangle before the morrow's
dawn. After every detail had been fixed, to us our trusted pessimist,
Vasquez: "Ni por aqui ni por alli, ni por este lado ni por el otro, ni
por ninguna parte cualquiera, no harémos _náda_ por la mañana"--"Neither
on this side nor on that, neither to east nor west, nor at any other
point whatever, shall we do the slightest good to-morrow!"

On reassembling for breakfast, the result worked out as follows: 2
geese, 3 mallard, 29 wigeon, 26 teal, 7 gadwall, 4 shovelers, 1 marbled
and 1 tufted duck. Total, 73 head before ten o'clock, besides a curlew
and several golden plover, godwits and sundries.

We felt fairly satisfied; yet Vasquez's comment ran: "Seventy head among
six guns, _eso no es náda_ = that is nothing!"

     NOTE.--The writer had in his pocket a letter from home: "We put in
     six days' punt-gunning at the New Year. Frost severe and all
     conditions favourable. My bag, 4 brent-geese, 2 mallard, 3 wigeon,
     and a northern diver.--E. H. C."



The Greylag Goose (_Anser cinereus_) is the only species we need here
consider. For of the many hundreds of wild-geese that we have shot and
examined during the eighteen years since the publication of _Wild
Spain_, every one has proved to be a Greylag. This is the more
remarkable inasmuch as an allied form, the Bean-Goose, was supposed in
earlier days to occur in Spain, though relatively in small numbers. Col.
Irby estimated the Bean-Geese as one to 200 of the Greylags; but no such
proportion any longer exists, at least in the delta of the Guadalquivir,
where, during eighteen years, hardly a single Bean-Goose has been

This abandonment of southern Spain by the Bean-Goose (presuming it was
ever found therein) appears inexplicable. The species has lately been
recognised as divisible into various races or subspecies (differing
chiefly in the form and colour of the beak),[73] for which reason it may
here be recorded that of the few Bean-Geese examined twenty years ago in
Spain, the beak was invariably dark to below the nasal orifice, with a
dark tip, and an intermediate band of rufous-chestnut.

Of the other three members of the genus, the Pink-footed Goose (_Anser
brachyrhynchus_) has never occurred in Spain; while neither the
white-fronted nor the lesser white-fronted species (_A. albifrons_ and
_A. erythropus_, L.) have ever been recorded save in an isolated
instance in either case. We have never met with any one of them--indeed,
the only wild-goose in our records, other than Greylag and half-a-dozen
Bean-Geese, is a single Bernacle (_Bernicla leucopsis_), one of three
that was shot at Santolalla by our late friend Mr. William Garvey.

Of the Greylags that winter in Andalucia, the great majority are
adults--that is (presuming our diagnosis to be correct), scarcely one in
four is a gosling of the year. The adult geese we distinguish by the
spur on the wing-point of the ganders and generally by their larger size
and heavier build. Their undersides, moreover, are more or less spotted
or barred with black--some wear regular "barred waistcoats," whereas the
young birds are wholly plain white beneath. The legs and feet of the
latter are also of the palest flesh-colour (some almost white), rarely
showing any approximation to a pink shade, and their beaks vary from
nearly white to palest yellow; whereas in the older, mostly
"spot-breasted," geese the beak is deep yellow to orange, and their legs
and feet are distinctly pink--some as pronouncedly so as in _A.
brachyrhynchus_. These "soft parts" are, however, subject to infinite
variation, and the above definition is a careful deduction from the
results of many years' observation.[74]

On several occasions we have examined from a dozen to a score of geese
without finding a single _gosling_ among them. The largest proportion of
the latter so recorded was on January 29, 1907, when of sixteen geese
shot, five (or possibly six) were young birds of the year before. All
these sixteen showed some white feathers on the forehead, and the
heaviest pair (two old ganders) weighed together 18-1/2 lbs.

As regards their weights, the following notes show the variation:--

During the severe drought of 1896, six geese weighed on November 26,
when almost starving for food and water, ranged from 6-1/4 to 7-3/4 lbs.
A month later, when rains had fallen, weights had increased to 8-1/4 to
9-1/4 lbs.

_December 28, 1899._--The heaviest of 29 scaled 9-1/4 lbs.

_January 30, 1905._--The geese this dry season are in fine condition. An
old gander, shot at Martinazo, exceeded 10-1/2 lbs., another pair, shot
right and left, scaled 9-1/2 and 10 lbs.

_February 4, 1907._--Two geese, the heaviest of eleven shot this
morning, weighed over 9 lbs. each, the pair scaling 18-1/4 lbs. It was a
severe frost, the shallows being covered with ice, and as each goose
fell, two bits of solid ice, in form as it were a pair of sandals, were
found lying alongside it, these having been detached by the fall from
the feet of the bird.

       *       *       *       *       *

_1906. November 28._--Two pure white geese observed on Santolalla to-day
and on subsequent occasions. Though usually seen flying in company with
packs of normally coloured geese, the white pair always kept together.

_1907. January 25._--After a month's bitterly cold and dry weather with
few geese, the wind to-day shifted to east, with heavy rain. All day
long a continuous entry of geese took place from the south-westward, in
frequent successive packs--sometimes two or three lots in sight at once.
A sense of movement was perceptible over the whole marisma. Next morning
these newcomers were sitting in ranks of thousands by the "new water"
all along the verge of the marisma--a wondrous sight.



PINTAIL (_Dafila acuta_).--In wet years a considerable number of
pintails remain to nest in the marismas of Guadalquivir, and by August
the broods (together with those of garganey, marbled duck, etc.)
assemble on the only waters that then remain--such as the Lagunas de
Santolalla, etc.

In 1908, a very wet spring, almost as many pintails bred here as
mallards, and in eight nests observed the maximum number of eggs was
nine. They resemble those of mallards, consisting of twigs with a few
feathers placed on the mud, and easily seen through the open clump of
samphire which shelters them.[75]

MALLARD (_Anas boschas_), in the marisma, nest in precisely similar
situations, but their eggs number twelve or fourteen. Elsewhere their
nests (being among bush or reedbeds) are less easily seen.

WIGEON (_Mareca penelope_) never breed, though chance birds (and some
greylags also) remain every summer--possibly wounded.

GADWALL (_Anas strepera_) do not nest in the open marisma, but many
pairs retire to the rush-fringed inland lagoons, such as Zopiton and
Santolalla. They lay nine to twelve eggs about mid-May, usually at a
short distance from the water.

TEAL (_Nettion crecca_) remain quite exceptionally. Even in that wet
spring, 1908, only a single nest was found. There were eight eggs laid
on bare mud, with hardly any nest, beneath a samphire bush. Though quite
fresh, and placed at once under a hen, these eggs did not hatch.

GARGANEY (_Querquedula circia_) breed among the samphire in the open
marisma--in wet seasons quite numerously. Seven young, caught newly
hatched in 1908 and kept alive at Jerez, showed no distinctive sexual
coloration all that autumn or up to February 1909. Early in March three
drakes became distinguishable, the most advanced being complete in
feather by the 15th, and all three perfect by April 1.

Young pintails, on the other hand, acquire complete sexual dress in the
autumn, as mallards do, by November.

Garganey also nest in large numbers on the lagoons of Daimiel in La

MARBLED DUCK (_Querquedula angustirostris_).--This is one of the most
abundant of the Spanish-breeding ducks, nesting both in the marisma and
along the various channels of the Guadalquivir. Their nests,
substantially built of twigs of samphire, dead reeds, and grass, lined
with down, are carefully concealed among covert, usually on dry ground.
Some are approached by a sort of tunnel. Exceptionally we have seen a
nest built a foot high in the branches of a samphire bush with a clear
space beneath, and overhanging shallow water. The eggs, laid at the end
of May, vary from twelve to fourteen, and in one instance
twenty--possibly the produce of two females. We find these the most
difficult of all the ducks to rear in confinement. Probably their food
is quite different, anyway they are very bad eating.

Marbled ducks are unknown at Daimiel.

SHOVELERS (_Spatula clypeata_) only breed exceptionally and in wet
seasons; we found one nest at Las Nuevas in 1908. Though abundant in
winter, does not breed at Daimiel.

FERRUGINOUS DUCKS (_Fuligula nyroca_), like all the diving tribe, breed
only on deep and permanent lakes, such as those of Medina and Daimiel,
where they abound all summer. None nest in the marisma, which in summer
is largely dry. Nests, mid-May; eggs, nine or ten.

POCHARD (_Fuligula ferina_).--Though we have not found it ourselves, one
of our fowlers (Machachado) tells us that pochards breed on the lakes,
and even more in Las Nuevas, laying but few eggs--five to seven.

RED-CRESTED POCHARD (_Fuligula rufila_).--This is the characteristic
breeding-duck at Daimiel in La Mancha, as well as on the Albufera of
Valencia, at both of which points it abounds. Yet curiously it is all
but unknown on the Bætican marismas. Among the thousands of ducks we
have shot therein, but a single example of the red-crested pochard
figures--a female killed January 19, 1903.

TUFTED DUCK (_Fuligula cristata_).--None remain, though abundant in

WHITE-FACED DUCK (_Erismatura leucocephala_).--This species, known as
_Bamboléta_ or _Malvasía_, arrives in spring and breeds commonly on
every deep pool and reed-girt lagoon in Andalucia.

SHELDUCKS (_Tadorna cornuta_), we are assured (though this we have not
proved), breed in the marisma in hollows (_hoyos_)--such as the
cavernous footprints made by cattle in the soft mud in winter. Common in
dry winters.

RUDDY SHELDUCK (_Tadorna casarca_).--These are seen here all summer, yet
we have failed to discover their breeding-places. They are common, old
and young, on the Laguna de Medina in August and September. This is a
striking species of stately flight and clear-toned ringing
cry--_H[=a][=a]-[)a][)a]_--thrice repeated.


PIED WAGTAIL (_Motacilla lugubris_).--This familiar British species
occurs rarely in S. Spain--we have but four records, all in winter. In
the reverse, the WHITE WAGTAIL (_M. alba_) abounds--ploughed lands
sometimes look _grey_ with it; and it is here, in winter, as tame and
familiar as one sees it in Norway and Iceland in summer. Yet midway
between the two, _i.e._ in the British Isles, we have seen it but
thrice! There it may indeed be termed a "rare bird." The explanation
seems to be that (like the two southern wheatears) these two wagtails
are not specifically distinct, but merely a dimorphic form. This year
(June 1910) we found the white wagtail breeding commonly in North

During a northerly hurricane on February 7, 1903, we observed an
assemblage of many hundreds of white wagtails on the barren sand-dunes
of Majada Real--a second crowd, as numerous, a mile away. Both were
migrating bands arrested by the gale. This is merely one example out of
scores that have come under our notice of the magical apparition of
birds from the clouds, caused by a sudden change of wind. Specially
notable, besides wagtails, are swallows, wheatears, pipits and larks.

The GREY WAGTAIL (_M. melanope_), though occasionally seen in winter, is
most conspicuous about mid-February, when it passes several days on our
lawn at Jerez. It has not then acquired the black throat of spring; but
two months later we have found it nesting on mountain-burns of the
sierras--precisely such situations as it frequents among the
Northumbrian moors.

The YELLOW WAGTAIL (_M. flava_; the Continental form, _cinereocapilla_)
appears on the lawn a week or so after the grey species has disappeared;
but this remains throughout the spring, nesting in wet meadows and
marshes, laying during the last week of April.

The British form (_M. raii_) also occurs during spring, but rarely and
on passage only, none remaining to nest.


ROOK (_Corvus frugilegus_).--There is a certain limited stretch--say a
league or so, on the foreshores of the marisma--whither each winter come
a few scores of rooks. At that one spot, and nowhere else within our
knowledge, are rooks to be found in southern Spain.

MAGPIE (_Pica caudata_).--On the western bank of Guadalquivir this bird
abounds to a degree we have seen surpassed nowhere else on earth. But
cross that river, and never another magpie will you see for a hundred
miles to the eastward. For it the lower Bætis marks a frontier. Over the
rest of Spain its distribution is normal and regular.

A similar remark would almost hold good of the Jackdaw (_Corvus

The AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE (_Cyanopica cooki_) abounds in central Spain and
in the Sierra Moréna. But its southern range stops dead at the little
village of Coria del Rio just below Sevilla. 'Tis but a few miles
beyond, yet in Doñana we have never seen so much as a straggler. The
Azure-wing does not straggle.

From Spain (as elsewhere stated) you must travel to China and Japan ere
you see another azure-winged magpie.

JAYS (_Garrulus glandarius_) in Spain confine themselves to
mountain-forests, eschewing the lowland woods which in other lands form
their home.


Absenteeism, 12

Accentor, alpine, 222, 316

Africa, 29, 40, 41, 67, 91, 111, 112, 381, 383;
  bird natives of, 272

Africa, British East, 272, 295

African bush-cuckoo, 400 _n._ 1

Agriculture, Moorish, 9-10;
  Spanish, 11

Alagon River, 232 and _n._ 1, 233, 295

Albufera Lake, 321-4, 410

Alfonso XII., 37, 190, 292

Alfonso XIII., 19, 26, 31, 37, 72, 131, 140, 190, 206, 292, 336

Algamita, Sierra of, 176

Algeciras, 295

_Alimañas_, 28, 42, 337-46

Almanzór, Plaza de, 140, 213, 216, 217, 286

Almonte, village of, 82 _et seq._

Almoraima, 363

Alpuxarras, the, 142, 302, 305

_Alquerías_ (Las Hurdes), 235, 236, 241

America, flamingoes in, 273

_Anatidae_, 40;
  distribution of, in S. Spain, 136

Andalucia, 2, 4, 10, 351, 393, 401, 402, 403;
  bandits in, 175 _et seq._;
  big game of, 54 _et seq._;
  birds of, 40 _et seq._, 222, 393-5, 403

Ant-lion (_Myrmeleon_), 36

Arabs. _See_ Moors

Arahal, Niño de, bandit, 176 _et seq._

_Armajo_ (samphire), 89-90, 91, 106, 114

Asturias, the, 294 _et seq._;
  chamois in, 283-93

Avila, 213, 219

Avocet, 268, 385

Badger, 337, 344, 345

Bandits, 174 _et seq._

Barbary stag, 43, 44

Barbel, 298-9, 393

Basques, the, 5

Bear, 289, 298;
  brown, 4, 29, 294

Bear-hunting, 296-7

Bee-eater, 41, 209, 211, 226, 393

Bernicle goose, 191, 407

Bewick's swan, 375

Bharal, 26

Bidassoa River, 2

Big game in Spain, 6, 28-9, 54 _et seq._, 148 _n._ 1, 303

Bird-life on the marisma, 40-42, 91 _et seq._, 114 _et seq._, 138 _n._ 1,
    265-71, 376, 381-91, 408, 409

Bird-migration, 29, 40, 41-2, 91-2, 99 and _n._ 1, 103-4, 111, 376-80, 389-90,

Blackbird, 223

Black-chat, 222, 230, 319, 353 _n._ 1, 367

Blackstart, 313, 318, 352, 362, 367

Boar, wild, 29, 42, 47, 68-9, 70 _et seq._, 147, 161, 171, 191, 229, 238, 289,
   353, 365-6, 396

Boar-hunting, 70 _et seq._

_Boga_, 299

Bombita I., matador, 199

Bombita II. (Ricardo Torres), 199, 205

Bonaparte, Joseph, 196-7

Bonelli's eagle, 28, 289, 355, 362, 366, 394-5

Bonelli's Warbler, 232, 318, 393

Bonito, 300

Brambling, 62

Breeding-places of flamingoes, 265-71

Bull, the Spanish fighting, breeding and training of, 200-204;
  breeds of, 88, 204, 208

Bull-fight, the Spanish, 8, 15, 192-9

Bull-fighters, famous, 195-9

Bull-frog, 392

Bustard, 212, 226, 227, 232;
  great, 4, 11, 24, 29, 119, 209, 242-64;
  lesser (_Otis tetrax_), 29, 262-4, 328, 392

Bustard-shooting, 244 _et seq_.

Butterflies, 62, 313
  _Lycaena telicanus_, 62
  _Megaera_, 62
  _Thaïs polyxena_, 62, 394
  _Vanessa polychloros_, 394

Buzzard, 228, 342, 397

_Cabrestos_, 371-3, 379

Caceres, province, 228 _n._ 1

_Caciquismo_, 175, 180-81, 240

_Cactus_ (prickly-pear), 9

Caldereria, 324-7

Camels, wild, on the marisma, 36, 40, 275-82

Cantabria, 4, 28, 29, 298;
  mountains of, 286

Cape de Verde Islands, 266, 271 _n._ 1

Capercaillie, 4, 29, 294, 298

Cares River, 284, 296

Castile, 5, 29

Catalonia, 5 and _n._ 1

Cavestany, Sr. D. A., Spanish poet laureate, 164

Central Asia, wild camels in, 276

Cervantes, 183

Cetti's warbler, 61, 393

Chaffinch, 164, 319

Chameleon, 394

Chamois, 4, 29;
  in the Asturias, 283-93, 294;
  preservation of, 142

Chamois-shooting, 286 _et seq._

Chapman, Mr. F., 273

Chapman, Mr. J. Crawhall, 280

Charles V., Emperor, 194

Chough, 222, 309, 319, 353, 355, 358, 366, 367

Ciguela River, 185

Cinco Lagunas, Las, 141, 215

Cirl-bunting, 319, 348

Cistus (_Helianthemum_), 37, 50, 62

Climate of Spain, effects of, 2-4

Coot, 186, 188, 207, 326, 384, 387, 388, 399;
  crested, 399

Cormorant, 186

_Corros_, 376-80

Cortez, 231

_Corvidae_, 401

_Corvus cornix_, 401 _n._ 1

Costillares, bull-fighter, 196

Coto Doñana, 30 _et seq._, 58, 59, 74, 78, 89, 122, 332, 343, 402, 404;
  fauna of, 38 _et seq._

Crag-martin, 319, 366, 367, 368

Crake, 39

Crane, 40, 392

Crossbill, 351;
  migrations of, 401-3

Cuckoo, 313, 393;
  great spotted, 41, 400-401

Curlew, 403;
  slender-billed, 392, 403-4;
  stone-, 227, 232, 343

Cushat, 396

Daimiel, lagoons of, 185-91, 324, 409, 410;
  town of, 191

Dampier, 266, 271 _n._ 1

Dartford Warbler, 61, 223, 353 _n._ 1

Date-palm, 4

Deer, 94, 148, 161, 171, 333, 343;
  fallow, 28, 148 and _n._ 1, 228 and _n._ 1;
  red, 42 _et seq._, 147, 155-6, 158 and _n._ 1, 228, 238,; _tables_, 170-3;
  roe-, 165, 229, 298, 353, 363

Deer-shooting ("driving"), 44, 156 _et seq._

Deer-stalking, 44 _et seq._, 60

Despeñaperros, 149

Deva River, 284, 296

Dipper, 211, 319

Diving ducks, 101, 112, 138 _n._ 1, 324

Don Quixote, country of, 183, 228

Dormice, 396

Dove, 209, 226, 393, 396;
  turtle, 212, 331

"Driving" (_see also Monteria_), 44, 47 _et seq._, 59 _et seq._, 115, 116-22,
   248-55, 286 _et seq._, 338-40, 360-62

Duck, 40, 41, 95, 96, 99, 102, 186-90, 322, 324 _et seq._, 375
   _n._ 1, 383, 388, 403;
  habits of, 106, 110-11, 187;
  ferruginous, 101, 186, 190, 409;
  marbled, 101, 112, 135, 383, 389, 409;
  tufted, 101, 138 _n._ 1, 186, 410;
  white-faced, 384, 386-7, 410

Duck-hawk, 102, 186

Duck-shooting, 108, 187-90

Dunlin, 63 _n._ 1

Dwarf-juniper, 315

Eagle, 38, 222, 228, 333, 334, 342, 363;
  Bonelli's, 28, 289, 355, 362, 366, 394-5;
  booted, 396;
  golden, 28, 153, 156, 317, 353-5, 362;
  imperial, 28, 258-9, 396-7;
  spotted, 398;
  white-tailed or sea-, 397-8

Eagle-owl, 343, 368, 370, 395

Egret, 186, 382, 385, 392

Espinosa, Pedro, 37

Estepa, 175 _n_. 1.

Estremadura, 80, 225-33;
  climate of, 230;
  fauna of, 29, 43, 226, 228

Falcon, 334;
  peregrine, 135, 317, 398

Fantail warbler, 61

Ferdinand VII., 195, 197

Firecrest, 352

Flamingo, 25 and _n._ 1, 40, 94-5, 100-101, 134, 186, 191, 327, 382, 383;
  breeding-places of, 265-74;
  _Phoenicopterus minor_, 272 _n._ 1;
  _Phoenicopterus ruber_, 273

"Flighting," 122-4, 136

Fly-catcher, 41;
  pied, 232, 319;
  spotted, 232

Foumart, 341

Fowling, Spanish modes of, 371-5, 379

Fox, 46, 60, 129, 226, 277, 317, 333, 334, 337 _et seq._

Francolin, 321

Frascuelo, bull-fighter, 197-8

Fuen-Caliente, 142, 149-50, 171

Gadwall, 101, 111, 384, 409

Gaëtanes, 2

Galicia, 4

Game preservation in Spain, 335-6

Garganey, 112, 190, 384, 409

Gecko, lobe-footed, 394

Genet, 171, 334, 337, 395

Gibraltar, 355

Godoy, 196

Godwit, 42, 63 _n._ 1, 134, 392, 403,;
  bartailed, 389;
  black-tailed, 390

Goose, bean, 407;
  bernicle, 191, 407;
  black (_Ganzos negros_), 186;
  greylag, 31, 32-3, 92, 95, 102, 114 _et seq._, 120, 125, 127, 191, 373, 375
    _n._ 1, 407-8;
  pink-footed, 407

Goths, the, 229, 231

Granada, 10, 301

Granadilla, 232 and _n._ 1, 233

Grasshopper (_Cigarras panzonas_), 259

Grebe, 186, 190;
  eared, 387

Grédos, Circo de, chief features of, 141, 213-15

Greenshank, 390

Griffon. _See under_ Vulture

Guadalete, battle of, 7, 229

Guadalquivir River, 30, 35, 299, 374, 391, 411;
  marismas of, 88 _et seq._, 114, 190, 265, 408, 409

Guadiana River, 185

Guerra, Rafael, bull-fighter, 198

Gull, 41, 186, 384;
  black-backed, 107;
  British black-headed (_L. ridibundus_), 391;
  Mediterranean black-headed (_Larus melanocephalus_), 268, 390-91
slender-billed (_Larus gelastes_), 268

Gum-cistus (_see also_ Cistus), 160, 225, 235

Hare, 226, 238, 328, 330, 331, 334

Hawfinch, 61, 362

Hawk, 333

Hazel-grouse, 4, 29, 298

Heron, 41, 186, 190, 382
  buff-backed, 385
  purple, 267, 388
  squacco, 389

Hobby, 397

Hoopoe, 41, 62, 184, 226, 230, 313, 319, 393

Humming-bird hawk-moth, 62

Hunting dogs, 159, 164, 328, 340

Hurdanos, the, 5, 234 _et seq._

Ibex, Spanish (_Capra hispánica_), 15, 26, 29, 43, 139-46, 149, 156, 210, 287,
   303 _et seq._, 317, 321-2, 352, 360 and _n._ 1, 362;
  distribution of, 142, 303, 305;
  habits of, 144-6, 152, 153, 360;
  heads, _Table of_, 157;
  preservation of, 139-42

Ibex-hunting, 216-24, 304 _et seq._

Ibis, 41, 382
  glossy, 403

Inns (_posada_), 18, 19 _et seq._

Irrigation, neglect of, 12, 230

Isabel I. (_la Católica_), 194

Isabella II., 323

James I., 321

Janda, Laguna de, 375 _n._ 1

Jay, 164, 362, 411

Jerez, 347, 392, 401, 403

Kestrel, 164, 212, 226, 230, 319, 396
  lesser, 355, 395

Kite, 211, 333, 334, 342, 396
  red, 397

Kitty-wren, 348

Knot, 42, 63 _n._ 1, 389

Lagartijo, bull-fighter, 197-8

Laguna de Grédos, 219, 220

La Mancha, 183-91, 409, 410

Lammergeyer, 26-7, 149, 217-8, 314-5, 353, 357, 358-9, 360, 362, 367, 368

Land-tortoise, 343

Lanjarón, 306

Lark, 41, 212, 226, 232
  Calandra, 209
  crested, 209, 319
  short-toed, 319
  sky-, 312
  wood-, 313, 319, 348, 352, 353 _n._ 1, 367

Las Hurdes, 5, 233 _et seq._

Las Nuevas, 99 _et seq._, 280

Lemming, 210 _n._ 1

León, 5;
  Cortes de, 6

Lilford, Lord, 265

Linnet, 319

Lizard, 333, 334, 355
  _Blanus cinereus_, 393

Locusts, 226, 227

Lugar Nuevo, 172

Lynx, 33, 46, 60, 68, 76-7, 155, 171, 317, 333, 334, 337 _et seq._, 398

Madoz, Pascual, on the Hurdanos, 239 and _n._ 1, 240, 241

Magpie, 226, 232, 333, 401, 411
  Spanish azure-winged, 29, 164, 184, 209, 225, 226, 411

Mallard, 186, 188, 190, 326, 327, 384, 389, 392, 409

_Manzanilla_ (camomile), 111

Maria, José, bandit, 174, 181

Marisma, the, 35-6, 88 _et seq._, 190;
  bird-life in, 40-42, 91 _et seq._, 114 _et seq._, 138 _n._ 1, 265-71, 376,
    381-91, 408, 409;
  plant-life in, 89-90, 115;
  wild camels on, 36, 40, 275-82;
  wildfowl shooting in, 95 _et seq._, 105-13, 115 _et seq._, 371-75

Marmot, 210 _n._ 1

Marsh-harrier, 38, 102, 107, 135, 387, 388, 392, 399

Marsh-tern, 384

Marten, 171, 317, 319

Martin, 355

Mazzantini, Luis, bull-fighter, 198-9

Merida, 229, 230

Mezquitillas, 167, 170, 171

Migration of wildfowl. _See_ Bird-migration

Missel-thrush, 212, 318

"Miura question," 192, 204-7

Mole-cricket, 392

Monachil River, 314, 316, 317, 318, 319
  valley, 311

Mongoose, 163, 171, 333, 334, 337, 339, 341, 344, 364

_Montería_, 157, 158 _et seq._, 283, 296

Montes, Francisco, bull-fighter, 197

Moorish domination, traces of, 7 _et seq._, 37, 232-3, 295
  origin of bull-fight, 8, 193-4

Moors, the, 149, 229

Mosquito, 62

Mudéla, estate, 335

Mulahacen, 312, 315

Mullet, grey, 299

Naranjo de Bulnes, 291-2

National characteristics, 5, 12 _et seq._, 19
  types, 4-5

Navarre, 6

_Neophron_, 319, 366, 368, 395

Nightingale, 232, 318, 393

Nightjar, 41, 396

_Nucléo central_, 140

Nuthatch, 223, 232

Oleander, 160, 166 and _n._ 1

Orange, cultivation of, 9

Oriole, 393
  golden, 41, 232

Orphean warbler, 393, 396

Ortolan, 319

Osprey, 191

Otter, 337

_Ovis bidens_, 352-3

Owl, 396
  little, 319
  white, 230

Paris, Comtes de, 278-9

Partridge, 15, 30, 32, 164, 226, 238, 331, 332-3, 335-6, 362, 363, 398
  grey, 28, 298
  redleg, 15, 29, 184, 319, 328, 329

Peewit, 267

Pelayo, 7

Pelican, Danish, 276

Peñones, the, 314, 315

Pepe-Illo, bull-fighter, 196

Peregrine falcon, 135, 317, 398

Perez, Gregorio, 292, 293

Pernales, bandit, 174 _et seq_.

Petroleum, 347 _n._ 1

Phillip II., 195

Phillip III., 195, 323

Phillip IV., 37, 195

Phillip V., 195

_Pica mauretanica_, 401 _n._ 1

Picos de Europa, 142, 144, 283, 285, 292, 302

Pig, 298, 363

Pilgrimages to Rocio, 82 _et seq._

"Pincushion" gorse, 314, 352

Pine (_Pinus pinaster_), 319, 361

Pinsapo pine (_Abies pinsapo_), 349-52 and _notes_, 360, 362

Pintail, 94, 97, 101, 110, 111, 186, 188, 326, 408, 409

"Piorno" (_Spartius scorpius_), 352

Pipit, alpine, 222
  tawny, 319, 353 _n._ 1, 367

Pius V., Pope, 194

Pizarro, 231

Plant-life in the marisma, 89-90, 115

Plover, golden, 63 _n._ 1, 331
  grey, 42, 134, 389
  Kentish, 267, 382

Pochard, 101, 138 _n._ 1, 186, 188, 324, 327, 384, 410
  red-crested (_Pato colorado_), 186, 188, 190, 327, 410
  white-eyed, 138 _n._ 1, 384

Polyglotta warbler, 393

Pratincole, 268, 382 and _n._ 1

Praying mantis, 394

Préjavalsky, Russian explorer, 276

Ptarmigan, 4, 29, 298

_Pterostichus rutilans_, 314

Puerta de Palomas, 367-70

Puntales del Peco, 167

Pyrenean musk-rat, 29

Pyrenees, 28, 29, 298, 302;
  ibex in, 142, 143-4

Quail, 29, 328, 330

Rabbit, 330, 338, 341

Rail, 39

"Rare birds," 403, 404

Raven, 209, 222, 309, 319, 366, 395

_Reclamo_ (call-bird), 328-9

Redondo, José, bull-fighter, 197

Redshank, 267, 268, 379

Redstart, 223

Redwing, 164, 362

Reed-climbers, 39, 61

Ribbon-grass (_canaliza_), 115

Rice-grounds, 322, 323, 324-5

Ring-dotterel, 390
  lesser, 393

Ring-ouzel, 222, 309, 316, 353 _n._ 1

Ring-plover, 238

Riscos del Fraile, 141, 211, 214, 221

Robin, 232, 318

Rocio, shrine at, pilgrimages to, 82 _et seq._

Rock-bunting, 313, 319, 348, 367

Rock-climbing, 144

Rock-sparrow, 319, 355

Rock-thrush, 222, 313, 318, 353 _n._ 1, 366, 367, 368
  blue, 230, 365

Roderick, King of the Goths, 7

Roe-deer, 165, 229, 298, 353, 363

Roller, 226, 393

Romans, the, in Spain, 6, 229, 232

Romero, Francisco, bull-fighter, 195

Romero, Pedro, bull-fighter, 196

_Ronda_, _Caceria á la_, 80-1

Rook, 411

Rota, 299

Rudolph, late Crown Prince of Austria, 266

Ruff, 63 _n._ 1, 134

Rufous warbler, 232, 318, 393

Salmon, 295-6

San Cristobal, 347, 349, 351, 352, 353

Sanderling, 390

Sand-grouse, 4, 29, 186, 209, 227, 382, 401;
  black-bellied, 232

Sand-hills and wild geese, 125-32

Sand-lizard, 62 and _n._ 1

Sand-piper, 211, 389
  curlew, 42, 389
  green, 390, 392

Sardinian warbler, 164, 393

Saunders, Howard, 265, 403

Schastowskij, Mr. P. A., 404

Sedge-warbler, great, 387

Serin, 311, 313, 319, 348, 393

Serpent-eagle, 209, 396

Serranía de Ronda, 2, 267, 347-59, 360 _et seq._;
  flora of, 348 _et seq._, 360, 361;
  ibex in, 142

Shad, 299

Shelduck, 101, 112, 191, 327, 410
  ruddy, 410

Shoveler, 97, 101, 111, 112, 186, 188, 327, 403, 409

Shrike, great grey (_Lanius meridionalis_), 62, 63 _n._ 2, 212, 393
  _Lanius excubitor_, 63 _n._ 2

Siberia, 404

Sierra Bermeja, 349, 360-63

Sierra de Gata, 227, 235

Sierra de Grédos, 140, 208 _et seq._, 302;
  ibex in, 142, 145, 210 _et seq._, 352

Sierra de Guadalupe, 227 and _n._ 1

Sierra de Jerez, 363-7

Sierra Moréna, 29, 411;
  fauna of, 42, 142, 147 _et seq._;
  flora of, 160, 225

Sierra Nevada, 301 _et seq._, 355;
  birds of, 311-16. 318-19;
  ibex in, 142, 148-9, 303, 317

Sierra de las Nieves, 349

Sierra Quintana, 149-53, 171

Silk manufacture, Moorish, 9-10

Small-game shooting, 328-36

Snake, 334
  coluber, 393

Snipe, 327, 330, 331, 392

Snow-finch, 316, 318

Soldier-ants, 61

Spear-grass, 90, 92, 95, 115

Spectacled warbler, 232, 396

Sphinx moth (_S. convolvuli_), 62

Spoonbill, 327, 383

"Still-hunting," 54 _et seq._, 60

Stilt, 190, 267, 268, 385, 392, 403

Stint, little, 390

Stonechat, 209, 211, 319

Stone-curlew, 227, 232, 343

Stork, 40, 230, 392

Subalpine warbler, 232, 396

Sugar-cane, 4, 9

Swan, wild, 375; Bewick's, _ib._

Swift, alpine, 355

Tagus River, 228 _n._ 1;
  valley of, 210

Tarifa, 300

Tarik, Arab chief, 7

Tato, El, bull-fighter, 197

Teal, 91, 97, 101, 111, 126, 134, 188, 327, 373, 399, 403, 409
  marbled, 186

Tench, 295

Tern, 41;
  gull-billed (_Sterna anglica_), 268;
  whiskered, 389

Thistle, Spanish, 248, 262

Thrush, 164, 223;
  blue, 222, 313, 318, 319, 353 _n._ 1, 362, 367

Tit, blue, 319, 352;
  cole, 319, 352, 367;
  great, 319;
  long-tailed, 232, 348, 367

Toledo, Montes de, 147, 148 and _n._ 1, 184, 227 _n._ 1

Tormes River, 221, 223

Tree-creeper, 367

Trout, 15-16, 294-5, 309, 317

Trujillo, 227, 229, 230-31, 295

Tumbler-pigeons, 126

Tunny, 299-300

Valdelagrana, 172

Valencia, 2, 4, 187;
  ibex in, 142;
  wildfowl in, 321-7, 410

Veleta, Picacho de la, 312 _et seq._

_Vetas_, 88-9, 90, 115, 122

Villarejo, 221

Villaviciosa, Don Pedro Pidal, Marquis de, 292, 296

Vivillo, El, bandit, 175 _et seq._, 181-2

Vulture, 67, 228, 356 and _n._ 1, 362, 366, 367-8
  black, 221-2
  griffon, 163, 222, 315, 319, 359, 364, 367, 369, 370, 397

Waders, 41, 382, 403

Wagtail, grey, 318, 348, 410
  pied, 410
  white, 232, 237, 410
  yellow, 410-11

Warblers. _See_ under names

Water-hen, purple (_Porphyrio_), 388

Water-shrew, 103, 166

Wheatear, 41, 184, 211, 223, 312, 313, 318, 353 _n._ 1
  black-throated, 318
  eared, 318

Whimbrel, 390, 392, 403, 404

Whitethroat, 232, 318

Wigeon, 97, 101, 110, 111, 186, 188, 327, 380, 399, 409

Wild-cat, 165, 167, 226, 317, 333, 334, 337 _et seq._

Wildfowl at Daimiel, 186-91, 409, 410
  of marisma, 40-2, 91 _et seq._, 114 _et seq._, 381-91, 408, 409
  shooting, 95 _et seq._, 105-13, 115 _et seq._, 131-2, 254, 323-7, 371-5, 379
  in Valencia, 321 _et seq._

Wild-thyme (_Cantuéso_), 225

Willow-warbler, 232

Wolf, 147, 154, 156, 164, 171, 229, 238, 289, 306, 317, 319, 334

Woodchat, 41, 318, 393, 396

Woodcock, 331

Wood-pecker, 396
  great black, 298
  green, 68 and _n._ 2, 164, 232
  spotted, 367

Wood-pigeon, 362, 367

Wren, 282, 318

Wryneck, 311

Yna de la Garganta, 355-7

Zamujar, 172

Zaragoza, Cortes of, 6


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] Catalonia was a separate State, under independent rulers, the Counts
of Barcelona, until A.D. 1131, when it was merged in the Kingdom of

[2] The term "Moor" has always seemed to us a trifle unfortunate, as
tending to indicate that the conquering race came from Morocco--"Turks"
or "Arabs" would have been a more appropriate title. For fifty years
after the conquest Spain was governed by Emirs subject to the Kaliphs of
Damascus, the first independent power being wielded by the Emir
Abderahman III. who, in 777, usurped the title of Kaliph of Cordoba.
That kaliphate, by the way, during its earlier splendours, became the
centre of universal culture, Cordoba being the intellectual capital of
the world, with a population that has been stated at two millions.

[3] For the information of readers who have not studied the subject, it
may be well to add that, during the early years of the seventeenth
century, something like a million of Spanish Moors--the most industrious
of its inhabitants--were either massacred in Spain or expelled from the

[4] At a big hotel the menu on May 26 included (as usual) "partridges."
We emphasised a mild protest by refusing to eat them; but the landlord
scored with both barrels. On opening our luncheon-basket next day (we
had a twelve-hours' railway journey), there were the rejected redlegs!
We had to eat them then--or starve!

[5] 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.

[6] By their peculiar style of aviation these birds, swaying up and down
and swerving on zigzag courses, alternately expose a scintillating
crimson mass suddenly flashing into a cloud of black and rosy
white--according as their brilliant wing-plumage or their white bodies
are presented to the eye. "A flame of fire" is the Arab signification of
their name _flamenco_.

[7] No offence to our scientific friends aforesaid. We recognise their
argument and respect its thoroughness, though regarding it as
occasionally misdirected. Possibly in their splendid zeal they overlook
the danger of reducing scientific classification to a mere monopoly
confined to a few score of professors, specialists, and
cabinet-naturalists, instead of serving as an aid and general guide (as
is surely its true intention) to thousands of less learned students.
Over-elaboration is apt to beget chaos.

[8] We have known the spoor of a wounded stag pass beneath strong
interlacing branches so low that, in following, we have had to wriggle
under on hands and knees. The spoor showed there had been no such
cervine necessity.

[9] Weight, clean, two days killed, 78 kilos = 180 lbs.

[10] There are sand-lizards identical in colour with the sand
itself--pale yellow or drab, adorned with wavy black lines closely
resembling the wind-waves on the sand.

[11] There are, of course, exceptions, such as golden plovers, ruffs,
dunlin, godwits, knots, that do assume a vernal dress.

[12] This, the southernmost form of the green woodpecker, has much the
most ringing voice. The closely allied northern form, _G. canus_, that
one hears constantly in Norway, utters but a sharp monosyllabic note. A
second curious fact may here be mentioned: that the great grey shrike,
just named, _Lanius meridionalis_, is resident in Spain throughout the
year, while the closely allied and almost identical _L. excubitor_
breeds exclusively in the far north (chiefly within the Arctic) and only
descends to England in winter. Besides the harsh note mentioned above,
the southern shrike, in spring, utters a piping whistle not unlike a
golden plover.

[13] This is only the second instance in thirty or forty years of a
wounded or "bayed" stag killing a dog. In the Culata del Faro, we
remember, many years ago, a stag shot through the lungs, and which was
brought to bay close behind the writer's post, tossing a _podenco_ clean
over its head, and so injuring it that the dog had to be destroyed at

[14] The initials are those of our late friend Colonel Brymer of
Ilsington, Dorset, formerly M.P. for that county, and who was a frequent
visitor to Spain, where, alas! his death occurred while we write this
chapter (May 1909). A unique exploit of the Colonel's during his last
shooting-trip may fitly be recorded. On February 5, 1909, at the Culata
del Faginado, four big stags broke in a clump past his post on a
pine-crowned ridge in the forest. Two he dropped right and left; then
reloading one barrel, killed a third ere the survivors had vanished from
sight. These three stags carried thirty-four points, the best head
taping 30-1/2 inches by 27 inches in width, and 4-1/2 inches basal

[15] Not a single accident, great or small, has occurred during the
authors' long tenure of the Coto Doñana.

[16] See _On Safari_, by Abel Chapman, pp. 216-17. The Spanish term
_Ronda_ may roughly be translated as "rounding-up."

[17] At the date in question (end of November) it is, of course,
possible that this immigration was proceeding, not from the north, but
from the south. That is, that these were fowl which, on their first
arrival in Spain in September and October, had found the _marisma_
untenable from lack of water, and had in consequence passed on into
Africa, whence they were now returning, on the changed weather. But be
that as it may, the route above indicated is that invariably followed by
the north-bred wildfowl on their first arrival in Spain.

[18] This was in earlier days. Later on we developed a flotilla of
flat-bottomed canoes expressly adapted to this service. A photo of one
of these is annexed.

[19] See _Instructions to Young Sportsmen_, by P. Hawker, second edition
(1816), pp. 229, 230.

[20] In the big and deep lucios no plant-life exists, nor could
surface-feeding ducks reach down to it even if subaquatic herbage of any
kind did grow there.

[21] We have here in our mind's eye our own shooting-grounds in the
Bætican marismas. But there are other regions in Andalucia where geese
feed on open grassy plains on which shelter of some sort is often
available. It may be but a clump of dead thistles or wild asparagus; but
at happy times a friendly ditch or dry watercourse will yield quite a
decent hollow where one can hide in comparative comfort and security. On
the day here described no such "advantage" befriended.

[22] The scarcity of diving-ducks is explained by these having all been
shot in the shallow, open marisma. In the deeper waters, such as
Santolalla, common and white-eyed pochards, tufted ducks, etc., abound.

[23] The Montes de Toledo comprise some of the best big-game country in
Spain and include several of her most famous preserves; such, for
example, as the Coto de Cabañeros belonging to the Conde de
Valdelagrana, El Castillo, a domain of the Duke of Castillejos, and
Zumajo of the Marques de Alventos. The Duke of Arión possesses a wild
tract inhabited by fallow-deer.

[24] Thirteen wolves were killed thus (and recovered) on the property of
the Marquis del Mérito in the winter of 1906-7.

[25] Similarly the half-wild cattle of Spain leave their new-born calves
concealed in some bush or palmetto, the mother going off for a whole day
and only returning at sunset.

[26] Photos given in _Wild Spain_.

[27] We exclude from consideration all deer that are winter-fed or
otherwise assisted, and of course all that have been "improved" by
crosses with extraneous blood. These mountain deer of Spain are true
native aborigines, unaltered and living the same wild life as they lived
here in Roman days and in ages before.

[28] We here use the term hound or dog indiscriminately as, in the
altering circumstances, each is equally applicable and correct

[29] I never myself count shots, hits or misses--_horas non numero_. The
above record is solely due to the inception by our gracious hostess at
Mezquitillas of a pretty custom, namely, that for every bullet fired, a
small sum should be payable by the sportsman towards a local charity.

[30] The oleander is poisonous to horses and other domestic animals, and
is instinctively avoided by both game and cattle. During the Peninsular
War it is recorded that several British soldiers came by their deaths
through this cause. A foraging party cut and peeled some oleander
branches to use as skewers in roasting meat over the camp-fires. Of
twelve men who ate the meat, seven died.

[31] Pernales was born at Estepa, province of Sevilla, September 3,
1878, a ne'er-do-weel son of honest, rural parents. By 1906 he had
become notorious as a determined criminal. His appearance and
Machiavellian instincts were interpreted as indicating great personal
courage, and, united with his physique, combined to present a repulsive
and menacing figure. A huge head set on broad chest and shoulders, with
red hair and deep-set blue eyes, a livid freckled complexion, thin
eyebrows, and one long tusk always visible, protruding from a horrid
mouth, made up a sufficiently characteristic ensemble.

[32] The authors personally assisted at this _toilet_, Talavera, May

[33] The oft-described details of the bull-fight we omit; but should any
reader care to peruse an impartial description thereof, written by one
of the co-authors of the present work, such will be found in the
_Encyclopædia of Sport_, vol. i. p. 151.

[34] In particular, remembering an incident that had occurred here in
1891, and recorded in _Wild Spain_, p. 147, we were anxious to ascertain
if the lemming, or any relative of his, still survived in these central
Spanish cordilleras. The marmot is another possible inhabitant.

[35] For these, as well as graphic notes on the subject, we are indebted
to Sr. D. Manuel F. de Amezúa, the most experienced and intrepid
explorer of the Sierra de Grédos.

[36] This range is, in fact, a northern outspur of the Montes de Toledo,
which occupy the whole space betwixt Tagus and Guadiana. Its highest
peak, La Cabeza del Moro, reaches 5110 feet.

[37] Wild fallow-deer are indigenous among the infinite scrub-clad hills
that fringe the course of the Tagus, as well as in various _dehesas_ in
the province of Caceres--those of Las Corchuelas and de Valero may be
specified. The wild fallow are larger and finer animals than the others.

[38] Immediately adjoining the south approach to the bridge over the
Alagón is sculptured on the bluff a heraldic device representing a
figure plucking a pomegranate (_Granada_) from a tree--the arms of
Granadilla. There is an inscription, with date, beneath; but these we
failed to decipher.

[39] _Diccionario geografico, estadistico, y historico de España_, by
Pascual Madoz (Madrid, 1845).

[40] A later Spanish work, the _Diccionario enciclopedico
hispano-americano_ (Barcelona, 1892), regards some of Pascual Madoz's
descriptions as over-coloured and exaggerated. Our own observation,
however, rather tended to confirm his views and to show that subsequent
amelioration exists rather in name than in fact.

[41] The Hurdanos, we were told, make bad soldiers. Being despised by
their comrades, they are only employed on the menial work of the
barracks. Many, from long desuetude, are unable to wear boots.

[42] The white on a bustard's plumage exceeds in its intensity that of
almost any other bird we know. It is a dead white, without shade or the
least symptom of any second tint so usual a feature in white.

[43] _Avetarda_ is old Spanish, the modern spelling being _Abutarda_.

[44] A large number of horsemen inevitably excites suspicion in game
unaccustomed to see more than three or four men together.

[45] The horses, if ground permits, may be utilised as "stops" to
extreme right and left of the drive, otherwise they must be concealed in
some convenient hollow in charge of a boy or two.

[46] We know of no other bird that increases thus in weight anticipatory
of the breeding-season, nor are we at all sure that it is the swollen
neck that explains that increase.

[47] We have never succeeded in inducing our tame bustards to breed in

[48] Dampier, _New Voyage round the World_, 2nd ed., i. p. 71; London,

[49] Dampier's visit to the Cape de Verde Islands took place in
September, when, of course, flamingoes would not be nesting.

[50] We also observed in Equatoria a second species, smaller and red all
over, _Phoenicopterus minor_. This, however, was far less numerous; the
great bulk of East-African flamingoes were the common _Ph. roseus_.

[51] It is right to add that in America the growth of mangrove and other
bushes, sometimes in close proximity to the nests, offers facilities to
the photographer that are wholly wanting in Spain, where the flamingo
only nests in perfectly open waters devoid of the slightest covert or
means of concealment.

[52] _Gaitero_ is the word used. The _gaita_ is a musical instrument
which we may translate as bagpipes.

[53] For notes on these subjects, we are indebted to Mr. Carl D.

[54] Boabdil, we read, was a keen hunter, and during his sojourn at
Besmer frequently spent weeks at a time among the mountains with his
hawks and hounds.

[55] _La Alpujarra_, by Don Pedro A. de Alarcón (4th edition, Madrid,

[56] Several of these animals, moreover, yield excellent fur.

[57] These mountains are believed to overlie vast store of subterranean
wealth in the form of petroleum. Geologists seem agreed upon that; but
they differ as to the precise locality of the treasure or whence it may
most conveniently be exploited.

[58] We have a number of pinsápos growing in Northumberland. They were
planted some ten years ago on a cold northern exposure, and are now
flourishing vigorously, some having reached a height of eight or ten
feet. Nearly all tend to throw up numerous "leaders" as described.

[59] Pinsápo timber is fairly hard, but too "knotty" for general
purposes, and it is useless for charcoal. Yet these glorious forests are
being sacrificed wholesale because the wood affords "good kindling" for
the charcoal-furnace--can wasteful wantonness further go? That the only
existing forests of the kind on earth should be ruthlessly destroyed for
no single object but to provide _kindling_ passes understanding.

[60] We mention, parenthetically, certain birds observed at end of March
on that alpine meadow (4800 feet), as follows:--One ring-ouzel, a pair
of common wheatears, woodlarks, and Dartford warblers--all, no doubt, on
migration--besides, of course, blackchats, blue thrushes, etc. A month
later the beautiful rock-thrush had come to grace the desolation with
lilting flight and song, and tawny pipits ran blithely among the rocks.

[61] Note that the pellets or "castings" thrown up by vultures are
chiefly formed of grass cut up into lengths and compacted with saliva,
evidently digestive. We have frequently seen vultures carrying a wisp of
grass in their beaks.

[62] The Spanish name of the ibex, _Cabra montés_, signifies, not as
might appear, "mountain-goat," but _scrub-goat_; and may have originated
in this region, or at least from a habit which prevails here though
obsolete everywhere else.

[63] Similar results followed on the Laguna de Janda. That great shallow
lake abounds in winter with both ducks and geese; but differs from the
marismas in being sweet water, hence is not frequented by flamingoes.
Another point of difference is that its shores are occupied by wild
bulls instead of brood-mares; hence the _cabresto_-pony is not
available. Wildfowl here also proved inaccessible to a gunning-punt on
open waters; while wherever reeds or sedge promised some "advantage," in
such places the depth of water was always insufficient to float the
lightest of craft within range. The best shot made during four seasons
realised but twenty-three (seven geese and sixteen duck)--a paltry
total. Occasionally a great bustard was shot from the gunboat.

[64] The word "_Corro_" applies in Spanish to any noisy group--say a
knot of people discussing politics in the street!

[65] One feels convinced, while lying listening, that these exuberant
fowl invent and formulate a series of new notes and cries special to the
occasion and outside their normal vocabulary. Hence, possibly,
originated the use of the term "_Corro_."

[66] _Corros_ usually consist (especially the earlier assemblies) of one
root-species--others merely "edge in." The later _corros_, however, are
much mixed. They vary in numbers: one may contain but 200 pairs, another
within half-a-mile as many thousands.

[67] Pratincoles cast themselves down flat on the dry mud, fluttering as
though in mortal agony--or, say, like a huge butterfly with a pin
through its thorax! The device is presumably adopted in order to decoy
an intruder away from their eggs or young. This year, however, the
pratincoles still practised it, although they had neither eggs nor young
at all. One day (May 12) a gale of wind blew some of the deceivers
bodily away.

[68] In none were the generative organs more than slightly developed,
and in most the plumage was full of new blood-feathers, showing that the
summer change was not yet complete. The date, May 10-15. Another drawing
is given at p. 42.

[69] Common British birds we exclude from notice, or might fill a page
with swarming goldfinches, robins, wrens, chaffinch, blackbird,
stonechat, whitethroats, tree-pipits, titlarks (the last three on
passage), blackcap, garden-warbler, whinchat, redstart, and a host more.

[70] The African bush-cuckoos, or coucals (_Centropus_), certainly build
their own nests; but they are only related nominally, and the connection
is remote.

[71] In Egypt the hooded crow (_Corvus cornix_) is invariably the
cuckoo's dupe; in Algeria, _Pica mauretanica_.

[72] We find a note that one Bean-Goose was shot on November 27,
1896--weight 5-1/4 lbs.

[73] See the elaborate monograph on _The Geese of Europe and Asia_, by
M. Serge Alphéraky of St. Petersburg (London, Rowland Ward).

[74] One such note may be given as an example:--

"1903.--Examined 40 geese shot January 1 and 2. Legs varied from white
and pale flesh-colour to pale yellowish and pink, adults all of the
latter colour. Beaks vary from whitish or flesh-colour, through yellow,
up to bright orange. A few of the geese, mostly the smaller, young
birds, were nearly pure white below: others heavily spotted or barred
with black: nearly all (old and young) show signs of a 'white-front.'"

[75] In Jutland we found some pintails' nests rather cunningly concealed
in holes upon open grassy islets in marine lagoons not unlike our
Spanish marismas; others were on bare ground, though occasionally hidden
among thistles. Here also the eggs numbered eight or nine. See _Ibis_,
1894, p. 349.

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

averge depth=> average depth {pg 302}

produces these montrosities=> produces these monstrosities {pg 348}

secured a specimen of two=> secured a specimen or two {pg 360}

are always strictly cleanly=> are always strictly clean {pg 368}

Préjavelsky, Russian explorer, 276=> Préjavalsky, Russian explorer, 276

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