I offer to the public a circumstance enacted in regard to vension-stealers, by myself and my black retriever dog Tramp. Tramp, to all appearance, is a cross between the Newfoundland dog and setter, and was given to me by Mr. Peacocke, of Pilewell Park, as useless to him from his headstrong humour. I soon found that the faults complained of were not in Tramp originally, but in his stupid breaker, whoever that man was, who had most decidedly whipped them into him. When’ he did wrong, therefore, I adopted the oil, in an endeavour to soften the vinegar humours the lash and want of judgment had mixed up, checking him only by voice and manner when he was in error, and fondling and caressing him when doing well. The dog really did not seem at first to know what a caress was, but seemed to imagine it a prelude to induce him to be caught to undergo punishment. Tramp trained on very well, and he is now a perfect retriever save in one thing— he will run and pick up before he is bidden to do so. He therefore only accompanies me in wild ground, where his running in cannot do much harm; and in wild ground among furze, to hunt, find, and then retrieve, he is perfection.
In the winter of 1852 I was out on Holmesley walk with a warrant for a doe, and killed her on the edge of a bog in a valley running down to the railway, in sight, though a distant one, of three plate-layers, or navvies as they are vulgarly called, who were at work on the line. In company with me, only in couples, when I killed her, were my terriers and Tramp, as, after killing the doe, I intended to beat for woodcocks and rabbits. A Highland deer greyhound, and a very good one, the property of Sir Percy Shelley, was with me when the deer was killed, who was afterwards to be coupled up when the terriers were called for. It is a habit among the keepers in this forest to let a deer lie without anybody with it while they go for a conveyance to take it to the nearest lodge, and I have often asked them if they never had one stolen. They replied in the negative; but the circumstance I am narrating inclines me to think that deer have been stolen in this particular manner, although the theft has not been acknowledged. I did not like to leave the vicinity of the venison, so, while the woodman was gone for his cart, I continued on the adjacent hills, beating for woodcocks and rabbits. After being out of sight of the deer for some time, perhaps three-quarters of an hour, I reached a spot where I ought to have obtained a view of her, but could not make her out. The cart had not arrived to fetch her, of that I was sure; so, thinking perhaps that the heather hid her from my sight, I despatched my man to the spot, and bade him, if the deer was gone, to hold up his hat. He reached the spot, and the signal was made of the disappearance of the deer. Expecting the worst, that she had been carried off, I hastened to the place, and there, sure enough, was where her throat had left a sanguinary trace as she had been dragged out of sight into some furze, and then all traces of her disappeared. It was in cold, harsh, dry weather, and on the hills the footstep of a man made no impression, while over the bogs, if he stepped on the tufts of moss, they rose again after the step had passed, and no trace remained in that locality to denote a passage. I confess to have been angered by this incident, as I did not think that there was a man who, in the daylight and at a risk of being seen, would have attempted to steal anything of mine; so, as a last hope, I ordered my man to run off to a distant hill, where he could command a view of the low lands on one side, and I sent two of the woodmen, who had been by when I killed the deer, also in different directions: the steps of all three of these men were more or less stained with the blood of the deer, and they had all handled her in pulling her from the bog to a dry place. To this I beg the reader’s particular attention. The men having gone on their several missions, I made the usual sign to Thor that I had adopted to put him on the scent of a stricken deer, which he tracked very well, if the trail was quite fresh, nearly as well as a hound; and I endeavoured to obtain assistance through him. But it was of no avail; he always went back to the spot where the doe had lain dead. While endeavouring to make Thor understand my loss, Tramp, who was at my heels, stepped in front, and, looking up in my face with a very peculiar expression, suddenly put his nose to the ground, trotted a little way, and looked back to see if I observed him. I did observe him, and became at once convinced that he was about to aid me; indeed, so peculiar was his manner and method, that there was no mistaking it. He went off at a long, dejected-looking trot, more resembling a mad dog’s action than his own graceful method when on game, and I followed him in the greatest possible anxiety. When he came to the spot on which my man and the two woodmen, strangers to him and both tainted with thedeer, had severed and gone different ways, Tramp tame to a check, tried each track, and seemed perplexed, looking up to me for aid, which I had no power to give. All I could do was to say, ” Good dog Tramp,” and to encourage him quietly. To my infinite joy he again took up the running on a strange line that had nothing to do with the steps of my people, and on we went over bog and hill and at last down to the railway. I had both my guns on my shoulders, the rifle and shot gun, besides ammunition, and, so loaded, Tramp’s long trot kept me at a pace rather difficult to maintain; when he checked at the railway I was, therefore, some distance behind, and I saw him try in each direction and then look back for me. Just as I reached him he went on a line of scent down by the side of the railway towards the three plate-layers before mentioned, but, after carrying it on a short distance, he would not have it, but returned to the wires, up to which he had decidedly been right. He then for the first time crept through upon the plates, looked at me, and carried on the scent over the line to the heather on the other side. Here, then, for the first time, I had ocular demonstration as to his fidelity: in the soft sand between the rails I saw the print of a man’s footstep, not anything like so large a foot as mine, and yet, when I placed mine purposely by it, it was evident that the stranger was heavier than I was or carried some weight, for he sank much deeper in the sand. Short as the space permitted me was, I took notice of the nails of his shoes and any peculiarity on heels or soles; and, so true had Tramp been to the trail, that in one place he had actually stepped into the footprint of the man. There was the footprint of a second man, but that I did not much observe. The ditch of the embankment was wet where Tramp jumped it, and he checked on the other side; but my eye caught sight of the bottom of the ditch as I got over, and I saw that the water was newly mudded. A little lower down the ditch was dry again, and there were the small footsteps of my friend once more! Calling now in full confidence to Tramp, I set him right, and he carried the scent some distance down the ditch, and then away faster than ever in his long trot up the heathery hill and into the high furze towards the village of Burley, notorious for more than one bad character. Up the hill I followed to where Tramp disappeared, but, before I got there, Trampreturned as if seeking me, with great quickness in his manner and anxiety that I should arrive; he disappeared for a moment again, and then, as I neared the spot, he came to meet me, full of jumping joy and congratulation, and so he led
me on into and through the gorse at times, more by the motion he gave it than any sight I had of him, till I came up to him, standing joyfully on guard over the body of the recaptured deer. We were then not far from the village, and I knew that whoever it was that had been obliged to abandon the load was safe enough housed by that time.
Having reached a conspicuous place on the hill, whence to signal my man, he came up, having begun to follow me as soon as he guessed what I was after, and, giving him possession of the deer, I returned to the railway, entered a cottage on the line to see if any man was there, and, finding that the owner of the cottage near which Tramp’s chase had passed was one of the plate-layers I had before observed at work, I took to the rails, followed by Tramp, Thor, and my terriers, as I knew no train was due, and proceeded by that unusual route directly for the three labourers. In nearing them I observed that, instead of looking up to stare at the unwonted trespass, each man became so busy with his pickaxe that one would have supposed they had been working for a wager, so, casting the guns to the left arm, I came right upon them, touched one man on the shoulder, collared the second, and told the third I arrested them all as having taken part in a robbery. You might have knocked them all down with a feather, so taken aback were they. I turned up the smock of one who had his on to see if there was any blood about him, but none was to be seen, and a glance at their feet showed me that every shoe was a larger one than mine; so, however conversant they might have been with the robbery, none of the three had carried the deer. They protested their innocence, and I asserted my belief of their guilty participation, because they were in full view of the spot whence the deer had been stolen and where she had been borne across the line; so I quitted them, with an assurance that I would that day apply to the inspectors of the line for their discharge unless they cleared themselves by stating all they knew of the transaction.
On reaching home I directly sent for a vigilant constable of police, and he started the same evening or the next morning, I forget which, and elicited such evidence from the plate-layers that he took into custody the little man who carried the stolen deer, and who was but recently discharged from gaol, having undergone punishment for stealing a gun. The next morning another constable captured an accomplice who had aided in the theft, a man who had been previously fined for a savage assault, in company with four or five others, on Bromfield, one of the marksmen of the forest, whom they had beaten and left for dead. These fellows were committed to Winchester to await their trial, and were afterwards convicted in two months with hard labour.
Now this is perhaps the most extraordinary instance of sagacity in that wonderful animal the dog ever related. Tramp had never run the scent of a deer, nor the scent of a man, and yet out of three or four lines of scent, the men all strange to him, and all more or less blooded or tainted with the deer, he distinguished the man who carried her, although not a drop of fresh blood fell to direct him, as the thieves took the precaution to tie up the head and throat before they removed her. The check where the lines of scent crossed each other showed that the various footsteps occasioned a difficulty; and also the one at the railway wires before he carried the trail over the line, that check too was accounted for. The thief had put the deer down there, while he ran to the plate -layers and bought a promise of silence from them by saying that they should have a share of the spoil. When Tramp showed an inclination to run down the line instead of across it, he was perfectly true to the steps of the man; but he had not gone forty yards before he discovered that he did not then carry the burthen he was endeavouring to overtake. He returned, therefore, before he had run those footsteps out, and resumed the scent where the deer was again lifted and carried on (pg. 265-270).
He was much more gentle with animals than he was with people. He may have refused to whip Tramp, but when he was a boy, he was not above using whips on other children.
He also famously shot a highwayman who held up his carriage. He told the lone highwayman that he could see his partner standing behind him, and when the lone highwayman turned around, Berkeley shot him.
But Berkeley wasn’t done yet. He challenged the critic to a duel, and the Berkeley shot him, which severely wounded the critic.
Some people can be quite gentle with animals but can be so cruel to others. In this piece, Berkeley seems smug that the venison thieves were convicted and received sentences of hard labor. Never mind that many venison thieves were stealing only to get protein for themselves or to sell at market to make little extra money. Wages in those days often were quite low, and it has been estimated that many working people in England were forced to live outside the law in order to survive. (There is a great chapter on cattle thieves and deer poachers in Peter Linebaugh’s The London Hanged. These people, along with the highwaymen, became folk heroes among the English populace, simply because they stuck it to the landed aristocracy at every chance they got.)
Tramp appears to be a particularly “sagacious” retriever, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least that he was able to catch a trail that a deer greyhound would have missed. Retrievers were often derived from setter/”Newfoundland” crosses, and the setter part of the cross was deliberately chosen to increase scenting ability.
Tramp may have had some faults, but Grantley Berkeley was able to overlook them.
But he was far from lenient in his dealings with other people.
He was Mr. Law and Order, and if the poor poached his game, he wanted them to pay– beat them, work them, ship them to Australia!
But if Tramp breaks before being sent on a retrieve, don’t say anything. He’s just a good dog.