A Provincial Dislike To Game How To Be Accounted For
( Originally Published 1884 )
If you ask a countryman in the South-west part of the kingdom to dine, he objects to any kind of game which comes to your table, and says, in his provincial dialect, I never. eats hollow fowl; under which term he includes hares and rabbits, as well as wild fowl, and every kind of poultry. It is in vain to enquire whence this dislike proceeds, for he can tell you no more, than that he derives it from his father. Caesar, it is very remarkable, describes the inhabitants of this country as having exactly the same prejudice. "They esteemed it," says he, "a crime to eat hares, poultry, or geese : they kept them nevertheless for amusement." " Leporem et gallinam et anserem gustare fas non putant; haec tamen alunt, animi voluptatisque causa." De Bell. Gall., lib. v. c. 12. Had the generality of our people been descendants of the Britons whom Caesar encountered, there would have been then little difficulty in accounting for this superstition, as it might reasonably be supposed to be the remains of a Druidical inhibition continued to this time. But history allows of no such solution ; for the Saxons found the southern end of our island, deserted by the Romans and ravaged by the Picts, in such a state of desolation, that, so far from adopting the customs of the few surviving natives, they gave new names to the rivers and mountains, and even to the villages and cities. Now we have the authority of Caesar for asserting that the Germans, from whom our Saxon ancestors are descended, had no connection with the Druids, but that they had religious rites and ceremonies of their own. Whether this injunction might have been part of the religion of the Germans, as Tacitus is silent on the subject, cannot now, I think, be ascertained. But what could induce the legislators of two distinct nations to forbid a food so obvious, delicate, and wholesome? And yet it is not easy to imagine that the Saxons would, after their arrival here, impose such an unmeaning restraint on themselves.
There is, however, an abstinence from some of these animals as to food still more inexplicable. It is well-known to sportsmen, that spaniels refuse to eat the bones of pheasants, partridges, and wild fowl, though they hunt them naturally; they reject also the bones of the woodcock, which bird they must be trained to flush. Is this antipathy dictated by instinct, or does it arise from being domesticated ?