IN PURSUIT?The jack hare spotted by John Shelley, hot on the heels of his fancy.
King of the Field
Country Sights and Sounds
A hare streamed past me as I ambled over the moor. Although the sun had been on my back for the afternoon a chill wind had got up from the north east, putting paid to another evening on the lake. There was a time that only the very worst of conditions could put me off. Now a fair weather fisherman (and a poor one at that), I have re-engaged with the camera while waiting for a warmer breeze.
The hare was small and lean and travelling at a fair lick. Across the field she went and came to rest under the far hedge, where she sat up on her haunches and turned her face in my direction, so that I thought, rather pridefully, if she was considering whether I constituted a threat or not.
Then came Jack, lolloping toward her on great long legs, one of his strides equal to three of hers. He passed within a few feet of where I stood, pausing just long enough to give me a cursory glance before stretching out his form in his haste to meet up with his friend.
Whatever designs he might have had, she was none to keen to make his acquaintance and took off once more as if it were hounds at her tail rather than one of her kind. Within a minute she completed a circuit of the field, travelling at the pace of a galloping horse. As she passed me once more I could see her flanks heaving and imagined a tremor of weakness in her gait.
Jack was in no hurry. His own pace was even and every few yards he stopped to sniff the ground as if to make sure he was on the right track. A mere ten paces off, he eyed me carelessly and reached full length to show me what a fine animal he really was.
And so he was too; I think I rarely saw such a fine hare, or any other wild animal so perfectly built nor so wildly free. His eye was bright, his nonchalance in close proximity to myself, who would have him in the pot, quite outrageous. When Noah came out of the ark God told him wild beasts would live in fear and terror of man: not so this hare!
I must add, though, that Jack and myself have previously met up from time to time, although always when he is in a hurry to be elsewhere. In short, he is really rather shy, as if his heart and mind were weak and the presence of a person simply too much for him to bear. I would find him in his form, his crude nest in the rushes, where he likes to spend his days with his ears flat and the sun on his back but always ready to flee. And when he ran he ran well, straight for a hundred yards or more, then changing direction with such speed it was hard for the eye to follow, then a twist and another turn until he was altogether out of sight.
I had dreamed that one day I would catch him sleeping and that he would find himself on film, but never had I imagined he would prove so obliging as now. He stretched one leg then the other, then both together. He balanced briefly on his front paws as if to show off his balletic grace. ‘Look, how lithe I am, and how supple! King of this field, that’s me, with no one to tell me where I should go and when.’
He stood tall, the size of a spaniel. He was as long as my arm and half as much again, his back feet near as long as my hand, his eye shiny boot-button black and bright with eager life, his snout like that of a truffle-hunting pig, searching, questing, finding.
Jack broke into a short gallop, rounding the trees and disappearing into the next field. The next time I saw him he was hard on the heels of the little female. Although she was doing her best to outrun him the end was inevitable. Six weeks from now there will be newborn leverets hidden somewhere close by, including Jack’s eventual successor as king of the field, and I, with right care, shall be there to greet them.