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“Some miles away, in the fading light, peasants were baiting a bear with dogs in a ploughed field. The yelping dogs were cradled by their handlers. The chained bear sniffed the upturned earth and salivated. The dogs were released, four of them. They leapt and bit hard and threw the bear; the crowd shouted. But everything that got in the way of the bear’s paws was damaged. The bear righted itself, and the crowd shouted again; and thereafter at every roll the bear did the crowd shouted. Then the bear, using its flexible spine, sitting on the ground and slumping forward, began to crush the two dogs it had dislodged and trapped, sitting on one, squeezing another to death with its forward slump; and the dog being killed looked out with a sudden blank mildness from the brown-black fur of the bear. The back of the dog being sat on was broken. The dog handlers then went in to rescue the two dogs that survived, still holding on where they had bitten. “The fight lasted three minutes. It was a village entertainment and, like the faith, part of the complete, old life of the desert.”

Posted March 28, 2003

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