A History of English Country Sports by Michael Billett
This book thoroughly charts the historical development of country sports in England over approximately the last 1,000 years. Several of the English country sports are also relevant to the other countries within the British Isles. The present controversial field sports of stag and fox hunting with horse and hounds are discussed in detail. The emotive issues and the present debate on their place in a modern society are examined. The author merely tries to present the facts, so that the reader may hopefully be better informed to make his own balanced judgement. Many of the earlier sports described are of an extremely barbaric nature, such as bear, bull and badger baiting. The cruel blood sport of cockfighting became the most popular form of entertainment ever held in England over a period of many centuries. The savage sports of cock-throwing, goose-riding, dog fighting, terrier rat catching and bare-knuckle pugilism are also covered. The sports are considered in the context of the social history of the times, when man showed little compassion even for his fellow man. This is illustrated in a special chapter on the extremely harsh punishments imposed on the poacher for infringement of the early Forest Laws and the Game Laws. The former importance of the art of falconry for hunting is highlighted, before its demise with the development of the sporting gun for game estate shooting. The sport of wild fowling is described and the history of the hunting of the otter and mink is also reviewed. Deer stalking features in the book, together with the coursing of hares with greyhounds. Whippet racing is included too. Angling is not forgotten, as it has developed over the years into one of Britain's favourite pastimes.