In spite of the praises of sighthound breeders who can see little fault in their dolicaphalic charges, the greyhound-type dog, the borzoi, the saluki, the afghan hound and the sloughi, are renowned stock worries, a thought that must weigh heavily on the mind of any hunter whose sight hound courses its quarry out of sight of the owner.
True, such beasts can be broken to stock, but the sight of livestock, particularly panic-stricken or noisy livestock fleeing in front of them, often triggers off appalling reactions in some sight hound.
So difficult are the sight hounds to get stock steady, that insurance companies, particularly those companies who specialise in third party damage caused by dogs, stipulate that their insurance does not cover damage done by salukis, afghans and borzois.
With such thoughts in mind, I set out to break Emir to stock as soon as possible. Even before inoculation he was taken amongst poultry and sheep so that the hens and sheep terrified the tiny puppy, and for a while this early stock breaking worked well.
So fearful was he of sheep and hens that he would skirt the creatures and cower, tail between his elegant legs, when one approached him. At first that is, things were to change.
The lurcher puppy in training alongside Emir, improved in leaps and bounds. At eight weeks old it was retrieving a dummy or dead rabbit, at five months of age it fetched fur and feather, sat, stayed and was totally stock broken. Emir regarded the antics of the puppy with his usual blank, almost mindless stare.
In no way could he emulate such feats, in no way did he intend to try. Training wise it was simply not a race, Emir was moronic compared to my fast and racey lurcher puppy, yet curiously it was emir who caught the first rabbit.
I had taken both babes for their dawn walk along the lanes that skirt the island of land on which I live. The walk around the island is about three miles, ideal for the still developing puppy; and the absence of vehicles at dawn allows the dogs to be able to run free.
Emir and the lurcher puppy were seven months old at the time, a very early age to expect sense of hunting instinct in a puppy, yet when a rabbit decided unwisely to make the short, sharp dash across the road, Emir killed it in a trice, giving the fleeing rabbit a short, sharp bite, and then standing over the deceased bunny, staring almost blindly at his handwork.
I was delighted and surprised, but once the rabbit was dead, Emir lost interest in it, even allowing the lurcher puppy to retrieve the carcase from under his very nose.
It was the beginning of a career of killing that was to end in tragedy. At a year old, when the lurcher puppy caught and retrieved his first rabbit, bringing it to hand as gently as a field trail spaniel, Emir had an impressive haul of catches to his credit, leverets, rabbits, moorhens and pheasants had all bitten the dust during those five months of early morning walks.
They would also have remained in that self same dust for Emir did not attempt to return his catches to hand, though as he became older, he became reluctant to leave his prey and tended to stand over them omitting a low ominous growl as the lurcher puppy timidly approached to examine the kill.
Furthermore, Emir slewed his victims easily and quickly, crushing the life out of his prey with one dextrous, well aimed bite. Not once did I hear a victim even squeak as it expired. Twice he coursed a leveret out of sight and slew it, leaving me to seek him as he stood motionless over the dead hare.
He would course, lose his prey, refusing to return, in spite of my frantic shouts, and if the mood was with him, he would cast about for further quarry, heedless of my angry bellow for him to return.
Somehow I was simply failing to make contact with him. Of his education concerning stock breaking, it is best to say that it was not successful. The surfeit of cats that surrounded my cottage, as wild and unkempt as I was, convinced the puppy of the true nature of all things feline and, providing the cat stood stock still and refused to flee, he ignored it, or appeared to, merely glancing at it with those aloof, oriental eyes.
Immediately it took flight, however, it became prey, not to be merely chased, but quarry to be ripped, torn and shaken to death, butchered with absolute savagery and total disregard for the terrible rips he was receiving from the claws.
Wounds and lacerations only served to make him more ferocious and hell bent on the cat’s destruction. A cat in the house, a cat at rest, was a thing to be ignored, but the same cat racing past the house sent him into paroxysms or rage, leaving him foaming with fury, untouchable for minutes afterwards.
Fowl were treated in the same manner. Providing they stood their ground, they were ignored. If they fled they were quickly reduced to a feathery, macerated pulp.
Furthermore, Emir was totally unpredictable. Sometimes he would launch himself at a fleeing rabbit like a fury, bursting his heart in the effort of turning the creature off its homeward path. At other times he displayed an almost cool, indifferent apathy at the sight of the self same rabbit.