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Hunter and Prey

Privileged Sport • Honor and Glory • Hunting Partners

Privileged Sport

Once upon a time, hunting used to be a privileged sport. Strict laws in sixteenth century Europe severely limited or fully prohibited the lower classes from engaging in what the aristocracy viewed as an elite activity. Not only could the peasants not obtain the meat and other by-products from local game, but they were also subject to a substantial loss of crops, damaged by the mostly unchecked wild animals.[1] The French Revolution of 1789 essentially brought an end to aristocratic hunting privileges, a change which spread through most of Europe by the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Yet soon after, charges for hunting arose.[2] Once again, only those who owned surplus funds could afford to hunt in the West.


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The Little Red Fox Chinese Falconry

Honor and Glory

Hunting, particularly of the aristocratic variety, offered more than meat, fur, and fun. It provided a means of acquiring honor and displaying prowess. Game piece trophies became popular subjects of the dead animal portraiture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially among the rising Parisian middle class.[3] In the goal for higher reputation, a hierarchy of desired game developed. Hunters avoided female, young, small, poorly-colored, and imperfect specimens.[4] Large, ferocious males better fit the human mental construct of a romantic confrontation between man and the wild.


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King Victor Emmanuel and the Boars Boar Hunt on the River Tigris

Hunting Partners

The sport of hunting rarely involves only two opposing players. Rather, humans often hunt in parties – the better to display their prowess – and employ animals to help hunt other animals. Dogs, horses, and falcons primarily filled these roles of hunting partners. For centuries humans have bred these animals to fulfill such purposes, and in fact the majority of dog breeding until the twentieth century only involved hunting dogs.[5] Each beast serves a distinct utility in the hunt, be it speed, maneuverability, or strength, helping the human to chase and capture the prey. While the average pet-owner pictures primarily express affection between the two parties, portraits of hunters and their hunting partners exhibit both companionship and a strong sense of ownership.


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Westmeath Hounds


[1] Animals & Men, p. 93, 1966, Dembeck, Hermann, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd: London, UK

[2] Ibid. p. 140-141

[3] Looking at Animals in Human History, p. 99-102, 2007, Kalof, Linda, published by Reaktion Books Ltd: London, UK

[4] Ibid. p. 149

[5] Pets in America, p. 28, 2006, Grier, Katherine C., published by the University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, USA