Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/168

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141
PERSIA.

The wild ass is sometimes hunted, though rarely, on account of its very great speed. Whenever it is, horses are stationed in places where it is most likely to run; and by continually changing horses, the hunter sometimes overtakes this surprisingly fleet animal.

The Persians delight in keeping fighting rams. A more bloody or cruel contact can scarcely be witnessed, than two of these furious animals engaging each other. On these occasions, the passions of the Persians are worked up to the highest pitch; and it often happens, that a quarrel among the men succeeds a baffle between the beasts.

Near Khoi are to be seen two pillars, called kelleh minar, or pillars of skulls, which are the memorials of an extraordinary hunt of Shah Ismael, who is said to have killed in one day a multitude of wild goats, the heads and horns of which were arranged round two massive pillars of brick, where they still remain. Some, less credulous, affirm that these heads were the produce of the sport of a year, which seems much more probable; though it is allowed, that the flocks of goats and antelopes on the mountains to the northward of Khoi are more numerous than it is easy to conceive. Another singularity belonging to these pillars is, that they are thrown considerably from their perpendicular, and the next strong earthquake will most likely complete their fall.

Quails abound in some parts of Persia. This bird the Persians hunt in a very curious and successful manner. They stick two poles in their girdle, and place upon them either their outer coat or a pair of trowsers, which are intended to look at a distance like the horns of an animal. They then with a hand-net prowl about the fields; and the quail, seeing a form more like a beast than a man, permits the hunter to approach so near that he can throw his net over it. The rapidity with which the Persians catch quails in this manner, is truly astonishing. Mr. Morier says, that in one of his rambles with a gun, he met a shepherd-boy, who, laughing at the few birds he had killed, erected his horns and presently caught more birds alive than he had shot.

The horse-races of the Persians are very different from ours. The horses start at the distance of perhaps fifteen miles, and pursue a direct course to the post. No care is taken to level the ground; and as it often happens that more than twenty horses start together, there are frequent accidents. Purses of gold are given to the first, second, and third horses. They take great pains in training their horses, which they do for a much longer time than is practised in Europe.

The Persian horses never exceed fourteen or fourteen and a