Custos

n4dqbgxktsf11

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Nunc ut exordio priore sum pollicitus, de mutis custodibus loquar, quamquam falso canis dicitur mutus custos. nam quis hominum clarius aut tanta vociferatione bestiam vel furem praedicat quam iste latratu, quis famulus amantior domini, quis fidelior comes, quis custos incorruptior, quis excubitor inveniri potest vigilantior, quis denique ultor aut vindex constantior? quare vel in primis hoc animal mercari tuerique debet agricola, quod et villam et fructus familiamque et pecora custodit. eius autem parandi tuendique triplex ratio est. namque unum genus adversus hominum insidias eligitur et id villam quaeque iuncta sunt villae custodit, at alterum propellendis iniuriis hominum ac ferarum et id observat domi stabulum, foris pecora pascentia; tertium venandi gratia conparatur idque non solum nihil agricolam iuvat, sed et avocat desidemque ab opere suo reddit. de villatico igitur et pastorali dicendum est, nam venaticus nihil pertinet ad nostram professionem. villae custos eligendus est amplissimi corporis, vasti latratus canorique, prius ut auditu maleficum, deinde etiam conspectu terreat et tamen non numquam nec visus quidem horribili fremitu suo fuget insidiantem. sit autem coloris unius, isque magis eligitur albus in pastorali, niger in villatico, nam varius in neutro est laudabilis. pastor album probat, quoniam est ferae dissimilis, magnoque opus interdum discrimine est in propulsandis lupis sub obscuro mane vel etiam crepusculo, ne pro bestia canem feriat. villaticus, qui hominum maleficiis opponitur, sive luce clara fur advenit, terribilior niger conspicitur, sive noctu, ne conspiciatur quidem propter umbrae similitudinem, quam ob rem tectus tenebris canis tutiorem adcessum habet ad insidiantem. probatur quadratus potius quam longus aut brevis, capite tam magno, ut corporis videatur pars maxima, deiectis et propendentibus auribus, nigris vel glaucis oculis acri lumine radiantibus, amplo villosoque pectore, latis armis, cruribus crassis et hirtis, cauda brevi, vestigiorum articulis et unguibus amplissimis, qui Graece δράκες appellantur. hic erit villatici status praecipue laudandus.
(Columella, De Re Rustica 7.12.1-4)

Now, as I promised in the earlier part of my treatise, I will speak of the dumb guardians of the flocks, though it is wrong to speak of the dog as a dumb guardian ; for what human being more clearly or so vociferously gives warning of the presence of a wild beast or of a thief as does the dog by its barking? What servant is more attached to his master than is a dog? What companion more faithful? What guardian more incorruptible ? What more wakeful night-watchman can be found? Lastly, what more steadfast avenger or defender ? To buy and keep a dog ought, therefore, to be among the first things which a farmer does, because it is the guardian of the farm, its produce, the household and the cattle. There are three different reasons for procuring and keeping a dog. One type of dog is chosen to oppose the plots of human beings and watches over the farm and all its appurtenances; a second kind for repelling the attacks of men and wild beasts and keeping an eye at home on the stables and abroad on the flocks as they feed; the third kind is acquired for the purposes of the chase, and not only does not help the farmer but actually lures him away from his work and makes him lazy about it. We must, therefore, speak of the farm-yard dog and the sheep-dog; for the sporting hound has nothing to do with the art which we profess. As guardian of the farm a dog should be chosen which is of ample bulk with a loud and sonorous bark in order that it may terrify the malefactor, first because he hears it and then because he sees it; indeed, sometimes without being even seen it puts to flight the crafty plotter merely by the terror which its growling inspires. It should be the same colour all over, white being the colour which should rather be chosen for a sheep-dog and black for a farm-yard dog; for a dog of varied colouring is not to be recommended for either purpose. The shepherd prefers a white dog because it is unlike a wild beast, and sometimes a plain means of distinction is required in the dogs when one is driving off wolves in the obscurity of early morning or even at dusk, lest one strike a dog instead of a wild beast. The farmyard dog, which is pitted against the wicked wiles of men, if the thief approaches in the clear light of day, has a more alarming appearance if it is black, whereas at night it is not even seen because it resembles the shadow and so, under the cover of darkness, the dog can approach the crafty thief in greater security. A squarely built dog is preferred to one which is long or short, and it should have a head so large as to appear to form the largest part of it; it should have ears which droop and hang down, eyes black or grey, sparkling with rays of bright light, a broad and shaggy chest, wide shoulders, thick, rough legs and a short tail; the joints of its feet and its claws, which the Greeks call drakes, should be very large. Such are the points which will meet with most approval in all farm-yard dogs. (tr. Edward S. Forster & Edward H. Heffner)

2 thoughts on “Custos”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s