On Unpleasant Encounters
Having given expression to my love of cats, I have to make it clear to those demented few who find this an aberration, that I grew up with dogs as well and have always had a great affection for them. At least for many of them. There was one dog in a neighbour's yard that was the bane of my childhood. Whenever I approached the house (I generally remembered to avoid it by crossing the street) this abhorrent creature raced up to the gate growling in a fearful manner, baring its teeth and drooling. It appeared to be regarding me as a light, between-meal snack, and had there not been a flimsy wooden gate between us it would no doubt have taken pleasure in tearing me apart limb from limb.
Wild boar can be pretty similar when they run into you. They are large and powerful creatures. I once saw the body of a dead boar on the track leading down from Montfort Castle to the stream below. It was huge and its massive black cadaver covered the entire width of the broad path. Even in death it looked fearfully powerful. In 1192, when King Richard was in the vicinity of the abandoned fortress of Blanchegarde, a small castle north-east of Ascalon the remains of which I once had hoped to excavate but was only able to survey, he came upon a long tusked and very fierce wild boar. The Itinerarium Peregrinorum described the encounter in some detail:
"At the king's shout it retreated a little way at a moderate pace and stopped to face its pursuer. Foaming at the tusks, inflamed with wrath, with its raised hairs bristling and its ears erect, it seemed to be rousing itself to anger and working itself up to a fury so as to be stronger to meet its attacker or to attack... It had a monstrous body and appeared horrendous to the timid."*
It broke the lance he threw at it, and wounded, charged at the king who, on his horse leaped over it and escaped unharmed. The boar charged again, and Richard struck it with his sword on the back of the neck, and then finished the job by cutting its throat. I had similar dreams regarding that neighbourhood dog, but, lacking a lance, sword, horse and the required intrepidity, had to make do with half-heartedly throwing a small pebble at it from the other side of the road.
* Helen J. Nicholson, The Chronicle of the Third Crusade. The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, Aldershot and Burlington, 1997, p. 310.