Hedgehogs in the Bush

The hunting and heraldry compilation known as The Boke of Saint Albans, printed in 1486, included in its 1496 edition the Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle. It opens by convincing us that fishing is a superior past-time to hunting or hawking. Among other reasons:

For huntynge, as to myn entent, is to laboryous, for the hunter must alwaye renne and followe his houndes: trauellynge and swetynge full sore. He blouyth tyll his lyppes blyster: and when he wenyth it be an hare, full oft it is an hegge hogge. Thus chasyth and wote not what.

That is:

Because hunting, in my opinion, is too laborious, because the hunter always has to run and follow his hounds, working and sweating very much. He blows [his hunting horn] until his lips blister, and when he thinks it’s a hare [that he and his dogs are hunting], very often it is a hedge-hog. Thus he hunts and does not know what he hunts.

I’m not the only one to have found this funny (here and here).

The compilation is well known for its attribution to a woman, Julyans Barnes (no, not him).

Explicit Dam Julyans Barnes in her boke of huntyng, that says: Here ends Lady Julian Barnes’ Book of Hunting. Did Barnes — or perhaps Berners — actually write at least the hunting portion of the compilation? A historian of hunting, Rachel Hands, says probably not. Still, the attribution is interesting!

For a bit more from me on hunting, see my post here on, among other things, Hardouin de Fontaines-Guérin’s Livre du Tresor de Vanerie.


Hands, Rachel. “Juliana Berners and The Boke of St. Albans.” The Review of English Studies, vol. 18, no. 72, 1967, pp. 373–386.