We’re now in the midst of pheasant shooting season! From the grading of the eggs, rearing the chicks to release into Ugbrooke Park, our pheasants are a year round commitment. Each stage is just as important as the next and the Ugbrooke team are heavily involved throughout, but did you know the history of the pheasant began over 2000 years ago?
In the beginning…
The most plausible theory as to how pheasants reached our shores is through import from France by Roman officers who bred them for the table. Although originally introduced by the Romans, the actual country of origin is still a much-debated topic. The most realistic answer is that pheasants were imported to Southern Europe from Asia.
After this, the first recorded documentary evidence of the existence of pheasants is in the year 1059 in relation to an order of King Harold. Although mentioned, it is not thought that they were widely distributed at this stage and Normans passed laws to ensure they were protected. These laws allowed the pheasant population to increase significantly and by 1100, Henry I granted the Abbot of Amesbury the right to kill pheasants.
It was not until practical hand-held firearms arrived in Britain around 1500 that shooting pheasant for sport really took off. Henry VIII is known to have enjoyed shooting and had a French priest appointed as a ‘fesaunt breeder’. Since this time, pheasant shooting has continued to be a popular Royal pastime.
Evolution of the driven shoot
Until the late 17th Century, birds were shot when stationary on the ground or perched. By the 18th Century, significant improvements in shotgun technology had been made and with the introduction of the double barrelled breech loading gun in the mid 19th Century saw the development of the driven shoot. A new concept at the time, instead of walking towards the birds, these shoots were formally organised with the guns at a fixed position or pegs whilst the birds were driven towards them. This technique, as we use today allows for more challenge with a variety of high flying birds and the Keeper able to control the amount and general direction of the birds.
Under their generic name, there are in fact a number of pheasant breeds throughout the UK including French, English, Scandinavian and American.
Look out for more information from Ugbrooke Park on what to look for in a variety of pheasant breeds including characteristics and flight patterns. If you’re interested in visiting us, speak to our team today!