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A Witch In The Form Of A Hare Hunted By A Black Greyhound


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

The writer has heard variants of the following tale in several parts of

An old woman, credited to be a witch, lived on the confines of the hills
in a small hut in south Carnarvonshire. Her grandson, a sharp
intelligent lad, lived with her. Many gentlemen came to that part with
greyhounds for the purpose of coursing, and the lad's services were
always in requisition, for he never failed in starting a hare, and
whenever he did so he was rewarded with a shilling. But it was noticed
that the greyhounds never caught the hare which the lad started. The
sport was always good, the race long and exciting, but the hare never
failed to elude her pursuers. Scores of times this occurred, until at
last the sportsmen consulted a wise man, who gave it as his opinion that
this was no ordinary hare, but a witch, and, said he--She can never be
caught but by a black greyhound. A dog of this colour was sought for
far and near, and at last found and bought. Away to the hills the
coursers went, believing that now the hare was theirs. They called at
the cottage for the lad to accompany them and start the prey. He was as
ready as ever to lead them to their sport. The hare was soon started,
and off the dog was slipped and started after it, and the hare bounded
away as usual, but it is now seen that her pursuer is a match for her in
swiftness, and, notwithstanding the twistings and windings, the dog was
soon close behind the distressed hare.

The race became more and more exciting, for hound and hare exerted
themselves to their very utmost, and the chase became hot, and still
hotter. The spectators shout in their excitement--Hei! ci du, (Hi!
black dog,) for it was seen that he was gaining on his victim. Hei!
Mam, gu, (Hei! grandmother, dear,) shouted the lad, forgetting
in his trouble that his grandmother was in the form of a hare. His was
the only encouraging voice uttered on behalf of the poor hunted hare.
His single voice was hardly heard amidst the shouts of the many. The
pursuit was long and hard, dog and hare gave signs of distress, but
shouts of encouragement buoyed up the strength of the dog. The chase was
evidently coming to a close, and the hare was approaching the spot whence
it started. One single heart was filled with dread and dismay at the
failing strength of the hare, and from that heart came the words--Hei!
Mam gu (Hi! grandmother, dear.) All followed the chase, which
was now nearing the old woman's cottage, the window of which was open.
With a bound the hare jumped through the small casement into the cottage,
but the black dog was close behind her, and just as she was disappearing
through the window, he bit the hare and retained a piece of her skin in
his mouth, but he could not follow the hare into the cottage, as the
aperture was too small. The sportsmen lost no time in getting into the
cottage, but, after much searching, they failed to discover puss. They,
however, saw the old woman seated by the fire spinning. They also
noticed that there was blood trickling from underneath her seat, and this
they considered sufficient proof that it was the witch in the form of a
hare that had been coursed and had been bitten by the dog just as she
bounded into the cottage.

It was believed in England, as well as in Wales, that witches were often
hunted in the shape of hares. Thus in the Spectator, No. 117, these
words occur:--

If a hare makes an unexpected escape from the hounds the huntsman curses
Moll White (the witch)! Nay, (says Sir Roger,) I have known the
master of the pack, upon such an occasion, send one of his servants to
see if Moll White had been out that morning.

In Yorkshire Legends and Traditions, p. 160, is a tale very much like
the one which is given above. It is as follows:--

There was a hare which baffled all the greyhounds that were slipped at
her. They seemed to have no more chance with her than if they coursed
the wind. There was, at the time, a noted witch residing near, and her
advice was asked about this wonderful hare. She seemed to have little to
say about it, however, only she thought they had better let it be, but,
above all, they must take care how they slipped a black dog at it.
Nevertheless, either from recklessness or from defiance, the party did go
out coursing, soon after, with a black dog. The dog was slipped, and
they perceived at once that puss was at a disadvantage. She made as soon
as possible for a stone wall, and endeavoured to escape through a
sheep-hole at the bottom. Just as she reached this hole the dog threw
himself upon her and caught her in the haunch, but was unable to hold
her. She got through and was seen no more. The sportsmen, either in
bravado or from terror of the consequences, went straight to the house of
the witch to inform her of what had happened. They found her in bed,
hurt, she said, by a fall; but the wound looked very much as if it had
been produced by the teeth of a dog, and it was on a part of the woman
corresponding to that by which the hare had been seized by the black
hound before their eyes.

Next: Early Reference To Witches Turning Themselves Into Hares

Previous: A Hare Crossing The Road

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