Hare and Hounds
Transcribed from Harper's Weekly, dated May 23, 1874


     This is a game played at most English schools, but more especially at Rugby.  Two of the fastest runners in the school are generally selected as the “hares,” and allowed ten minutes’ start.  They carry with them a quantity of small pieces of paper, which they scatter at intervals along their route, to afford a guide to the “hounds,” their school-fellows.  These are under the control of a “huntsman” and a “whipper-in,” on whom in a great measure depends the success or failure of the pursuit.  The former carries a white, the latter a red, flag.

     An English writer furnishes the following description of the game:

          “At last the time comes for a start, and the signal has been given that we are ‘off.’  At once the pursuit commences merrily, if the pace is not yet of the best; for we have to husband our strength, and it would be unwise policy to overstrain our capacity at the first dash.  We must go on steadily, acquiring fresh strength as we go, or we shall soon drop away from the rest, and collapse ignominiously.  Still we go on, following the scent, and closely adhering to this trail of paper, with the huntsman in front, and the whipper-in judiciously ending the line of stragglers in the rear.  So far we have had a straight course, if the fields have been heavy and the jumps unpleasantly awkward, but at last we have met with a check.”

          “It may be that accident has momentarily caused the sight of the scent to be lost, that it has been obscured, or that with cunning contrivance the hare has counterfeited a course so as to baffle the hounds, and gain additional time for breathing.  In any case, the pursuit has been checked, and the huntsman has not only sounded his horn to signify that the trail has been broken, but has also planted his flag on the spot where lies the last trace of the scent, so that no time should be wasted by the misconception of the precise place, and the necessity for another search to recover the lost ground.  The delay depends, of course, on the artifiees [sic] employed by the hare, for there are any number of expedients to be practiced, and the feints of an expert hare are innumerable—by retracing his steps, by improving a false scent, and, in fact, by the employment of any device that can dismay or impede his pursuers.  The hounds, though, have not been idle in the quest, for speedily the trail has been regained, and the cry of ‘Tally-Ho!’ from the huntsman, with another note from the horn, signifies that once more the hounds are on the track.  So the chase is maintained, either unobstructed or varied by frequent checks, until either the hare has been captured, or the hounds themselves have been exhausted, and have abandoned pursuit.”

     The school-boy game of “Hare and Hounds,” as it is practiced in the form of an athletic pastime, is merely a mimic representation of the genuine sport; though now, so exact is the imitation in point of the terms applied, that we hear of the human packs as the “Metropolitan Harriers,” with other appellations derived from the vocabulary of the huntsman.  It is not only a recreation, but a splendid exercise that prevents the blood from stagnating, and diffuses the caloric through every vein.  We need hardly add that it is a pastime for cool, bracing weather only.


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