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Baying for blood

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 25, 2008 at 21:54

In Reply to: Baying for blood posted by Snokey Stover on June 25, 2008 at 19:18:

: : Does anyone have any clues as to the origin of the term 'Baying for blood'? It feels like it could have something to do with fox hunting but i'd love to know for sure.
: Baying means barking, especially with a deep voice (as opposed to say, yipping), specifically the barking of dogs. The association of dogs with hunting is very old, and barking or baying is particularly (but not exclusively) associated with a pack of dogs, since hunting with dogs usually involves a pack. Single dogs bark, too, and "baying at the moon" is a favorite way of describing the barking of a dog chained up outside all night.

: Hunting dogs are very likely to bark when they find the prey they seek, as dogs tend to bark when they get excited. But "for blood" is a human invention, to lend more drama to the barking image. The same is true for the word "baying," since it is no longer the current term for barking.

: In the U.S., hunting dogs are usually of a particular type, recognizable by their black and tan color. The prey which they chase up a tree is usually a possum or a coon (known in my part of the country as a raccoon), and the location somewhere in the American South. Some Northerners (I, for one) regard using a pack of baying hounds to hunt such "varmints" as possums or raccoons as gross overkill, a "sport" that is somewhat akin to shooting fish in a barrel. But it is undoubtedly fun for those who do it.
: SS

On the other hand, using a pack of hounds to hunt prey such as wild boar, bear or stag is certainly not overkill. Typically, when a pack of hounds corners such a large animal and it turns to confront them, the hounds will surround it, baying, not willing to risk attacking it. A stag or other animal that has turned to confront the baying hounds is said to be "at bay" (in French, "aux abais"), and if it manages to hold off the hounds it is said to "keep them at bay". (A number of cheap stocking-filler books and any number of "did you know?" internet sites will tell you that "keep at bay" has something to do with Classical Greeks and Romans wearing wreaths of bay leaves to ward off illness. This is nonsense.) (VSD)