The fox and the crib
Sir, – Amid all the glitz and glitter of Christmas, I still prefer, although I’m not overly religious, the sight of a crib above all the eye-catching symbols of the season.
My favourite crib is the one displayed at the Dominican Church in Limerick because, in addition to the usual farm livestock encircling the Christ Child, it has an effigy of a fox.
This recalls a legend associated with the Holy Family, which tells how one of the Three Wise Men gave the infant Jesus the gift of a fox cub. Months later, when the Holy Family had to flee persecution, the fully grown fox helped them escape by throwing Herod’s hounds off the scent.
I like that story, and the fox in the crib, because I’ve campaigned for years for the protection of this clever wild dog of the countryside that gets such a raw deal from our own species.
Horrid King Herod is long gone, but foxes still have to dodge packs of baying hounds, in the name of “sport”.
At this time of year, newspapers carry lavish colour pictures of foxhunts setting off from village squares – idyllic scenes showing the red-jacketed hunters mounted on chestnut-brown horses and all the dogs happily wagging their tails. But you never see front-page images of what happens when a fox collapses from exhaustion at the end of a hunt, or a terrified creature being dragged from its underground refuge with the aid of spades and terriers. Some day, this hellish pastime will be banned and then, hopefully, our foxes, like the one in that Limerick church, can sleep in heavenly peace! – Yours, etc,