Besides the falcons and the dogs, the ancient hunting world has a few other rather peculiar “assistants” – the lynx and cheetah are both trained hunting companions that the hunting world adored. Today let us focus on these rather special hunters.
Lynx – Oriental Ink Brush Painting
Rice Paper, 33cm x 33cm
By Fiona Sheng
@InkDifferent Studio | Brussels
The lynx is a large cat that is especially great at capturing rabbits. These animals look different enough from cats though, with rather sturdy body and long legs and very short tails. This shape grated them the ability to run through rough terrain, and in addition their thick coats allow them to sustain cold climates. The lynx has received a nickname: flying over the grass – you may get an idea of how efficient they must be in the hunting!
Such a natural hunter obviously would gain the hearts of the ruling parties of a hunting culture, such as the Tang Dynasty. The lynxes are trained to accompany the hunting units, as shown in the painting below, the lynx rides on the horse back together with their trainers on a thick round rug, ready to strike! Funnily the pointy hair on their ears mislead some people to believing that they were in fact owls. During the hunting, they are especially helpful in capturing animals hiding in between rocks or in the bushes.
The cheetahs are also amazing hunters in the oriental hunting scenes, especially in the Tang Dynasty. Their images are seen on many tomb murals or from unearthed discoveries. The tri-colored glazed pottery (唐三彩) below clearly shows a cheetah riding with a trainer on the horse back. According to historical records, such trainers came from many nationalities, as demonstrated in some of the murals (their facial features do not resemble that of the typical Han Chinese), and over a dozen countries offered these beautiful cats to the emperors of the Tang Dynasty. It is worth mentioning that these cheetahs are normally smaller than those from Africa, but their speed is still impressive. These beautiful cats can catch rabbits and gazelles, but the trainers have to go through quite some trouble teaching them to first sit still on a horse, pounce only when asked, and let go of the prey after a successful chase.
Between lynx and cheetah, which do you think received more affection from people? The answer is, lynx. The lynx is smaller and easier to raise, making it the better companion; It is also capable of capturing wild geese and cranes, an ability quite unique to it.
These animals have been wonderful in the hunting over 1500 years ago, the dogs, the falcons, and these large cats. They have truly added diversity to the lives of the ancient societies, giving the people from our modern societies so much to rediscover.
Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!
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