Tag Archives: John Cummins

The Hound and The Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting by John Cummins – A Review

Hound and Hawk

Published: 1988
Pages: 306

I have three or four books on medieval hunting and, after reading The Hound and the Hawk, I know that I won’t have to buy another one. It goes into such detail, that I could probably go out and hunt something in the medieval style myself.

Cummins uses primary sources from across Europe, mostly from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although a few are from the early Rennaissance.

As its title suggests, the book is divided into two. The first part covers hunting with hounds and the second hunting with hawks.  The first section tackles the huntsman’s prey in order of nobility, starting with the stag and ending with the badger. Cummins also looks at the symbolism of hunting in a chapter on the unicorn.

Two chapters look at the duties and lives of the huntsmen before the book moves on to the hawks. It covers their breeding grounds, their capture, their training, their feeding, their prey and their illnesses. There’s also a chapter about what they symbolise in literature.

It’s for this latter section that I bought the book. Hunting was something that everyone did in the Middle Ages and I want my novels to reflect that fact. My heroes might be able to hunt stags, though, but my heroines can’t. If I want the two of them to spend time together on a hunt, they have to be using hawks. I’ve learned more from this book than I can use in my novels, but that’s a good thing.

Despite its length and its detail, it’s an easy book to read. Cummins knows what he’s talking about and he communicates it well. He even made me laugh, which wasn’t something I expected from a book about hunting. The laughter was often at the expense of the best-known hunter of the Middle Ages, the Frenchman Gaston Phoebus, who thought some English hunting practices were less than ideal.

If you only read one book about medieval hunting, this is the one you should read.


April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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Filed under Book Review, Medieval Hunting, Medieval Life