A history of game – pheasants are not unlike members of the aristocracy


Drive down any country road during the summer months and you will almost certainly have to hammer on the brakes at some point to avoid clonking a suicidal pheasant marching out into the road.

They are so highly bred that – like members of the aristocracy – their pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for ensuring that we don’t act like a twonk) is almost entirely absent. 

They just stride about in their preposterous plumage getting in everyone’s way, oblivious to their surroundings – and pheasants are much the same.

Like the entire cast of Made in Chelsea, pheasants could not possibly survive independently in the wild, because they are the result of unhelpful selective breeding.

One of the unfortunate results of this is that members of minor royalty are utterly crap at hunting. This soon became obvious to game keepers working on royal estates who were forced to quickly think up a way of making their pay masters appear to be proficient in this important manly pursuit to avoid losing either a) their jobs b) their Land Rovers c) their heads.

So they chose the largest slowest and most gormless birds they could find and bred them with each other in the hope that Lord Farquaar Bisquet D’chocolat would be able to hit one of them with a wide spreading shotgun.

When not even this was sufficient to help, they set about getting everyone from the village to work from the other end of the estate, beating the trees and bushes with sticks to scare the useless thicko birds towards the useless thicko aristocrats to increase their chances of, at least one of them shooting some lead in their general direction. It just about worked (in the same way that if you left enough chimps alone with enough typewriters for long enough they might type out a copy of Iain Bank’s The Wasp Factory) and soon great game reserves were springing up all over the home counties to give the toffs something to do when they weren’t breeding with their cousins.

Game birds by definition are birds that are hunted for sport and food. Examples include grouse, partridge, pheasant, quail, snipe (which lends its name to the term sniper) and woodcock (which lends its name to a genital ailment).  

And the best way to eat them is in a pie. In fact that’s the best way to eat anything.