Sunday, November 30, 2014

Long Netting with Xenophon


Writing in 400 B.C., Xenophon gave a pretty good equipment sheet for long netting rabbits. These, of course, are European rabbits which den in underground warrens or colonies. North American rabbits are either cottontails which nest in above-ground scrapes, or hares (Jack Rabbits) which do the same. There is a pygmy rabbit which dens underground in the far American west, but it is so rare as to be a protected species, and most people have never so much as seen one. 

Has the equipment and technique changed much? Not at all!

The ordinary small nets should be made of fine Phasian or Carthaginian flax, and so too should the road nets and the larger hayes.

These small nets should be nine-threaded [made of three strandes, and each strand of three threads], five spans in depth, and two palms at the nooses or pockets. There should be no knots in the cords that run round, which should be so inserted as to run quite smoothly. The road net should be twelve-threaded, and the larger net (or haye) sixteen. They may be of different sizes, the former varying from twelve to twenty-four or thirty feet, the latter from sixty to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and eighty feet. If larger they will be unwieldy and hard to manage. Both should be thirty-knotted, and the interval of the nooses the same as in the ordinary small nets. At the elbow ends the road net should be furnished with nipples (or eyes), and the larger sort (the haye) with rings, and both alike with a running line of twisted cord. The pronged stakes for the small nets should be ten palms high, as a rule, but there should be some shorter ones besides; those of unequal length will be convenient to equalise the height on uneven ground, and those of equal length on level. They should be sharp-tipped so as to draw out easily and smooth throughout. Those for the road nets should be twice the height, and those for the big (haye) nets five spans long, with small forks, the notches not deep; they should be stout and solid, of a thickness proportionate to their length. The number of props needed for the nets will vary — many or few, according to circumstances; a less number if the tension on the net be great, and a larger number when the nets are slack.

Lastly, for the purpose of carrying the nets and hayes, for either sort there must be a bag of calf-skin; and billhooks to cut down branches and stop gaps in the woods when necessary.

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