VIRGINIA photographer Karen Myers has unearthed a real gem: a small collection of historical photos from Virginia foxhunting a century ago. To see the collection online, click here.
The houndbloggers were especially pleased to see an array of photos of the Huntland kennel, which housed the Piedmont hounds. Huntland’s owner and the then Master of the Piedmont was Joseph B. Thomas, who–according to MacKay-Smith–at one time kept 105 couple of entered hounds and 48 couple of unentered hounds there for three days of hunting a week.
In his 1914 book American Adventures, published around the time these photographs were taken, author Julian Street described Huntland this way:
In a well-kept park near Mr. Thomas’s house stand extensive English-looking buildings of brick and stucco, which, viewed from a distance, suggest a beautiful country house, and which, visited, teach one that certain favored hounds and horses in this world live much better than certain human beings. One building is given over to the kennels, the other the stables; each has a large sunlit court, and each is as beautiful and as clean as a fine house–a house full of trophies, hunting equipment, and the pleasant smell of well-cared-for saddlery.
Thomas was drawn to Middleburg by the Great Hound Match of 1905, which inspired him to build this veritable temple to foxhounds. The “dashing, handsome bachelor and expert horseman,” as a 2008 Middleburg Life article put it, succeeded to the Piedmont mastership in 1915.
The Piedmont’s American hounds were a source of great pride to Thomas, who gradually came to favor what he called “the Old Virginia foxhound” that he felt was, in its ideal form, was “similar to the great British hounds of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,” and he pointed to a Sartorius painting of Peter Beckford’s pack as evidence. In his 1928 book Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages (a houndblogger favorite), Thomas said this about the Old Virginia hounds:
After many years of experience, the author has become convinced that the most efficient pack hound in the world to hunt a fox is this Old Virginia foxhound. …
Such hounds may be considered deficient if they cannot regularly hunt hard at least three days a week, or more than this if required. They must have sufficient determination and stamina never to stop trying as long as their fox remains above ground or their is a vestige of aline left. A pack of such hounds must be able to account for foxes in the roughest woodland and hill country in July heat (as my pack is required to do), sound of foot, and sufficiently agile to negotiate the steepest of rocky cliffs in the North, as well as have enough nose and drive to kill red foxes in sandy Carolina. This pack must hunt with dash and style, carrying great head, negotiating burnt-over tracts, and pressing tirelessly for hours, if necessary, through briers, cane, half-frozen swamp water, as if there were nothing to stop them, and, gallantly killing their fox, come home with their sterns up, a pack in fact as well as in name. In grass country, these hounds must be able to outpace, under good conditions, the best of Thoroughbred horses.”
… and a Hound Blog Hunch Bet Update!
Speaking of the best of Thoroughbred horses, it’s almost Kentucky Derby week! The race is on Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs, and, as regular readers of the hound blog know, our very own Tobermory Box is attempting to become the first beagle to win it.
The Hound Blog Hunch Bet has now grown to an exacta, because Irish invader Master of Hounds remains in the lineup as of this writing, giving the houndbloggers the delicious prospect of a Toby’s Corner-Master of Hounds finish in the 137th Run for the Roses.
And here’s another reason to root for Toby’s Corner: his breeders and owners, Dianne and Julian Cotter, are foxhunters. Both hunt with the Misty Morning Hounds, a drag hunt near Gainesville, Fla. Dianne is the honorary hunt secretary, and Julian is one of the field masters. They also host the hunt’s opening meet every year at their Snooty Fox Farm in Alachua, Florida.
To read more about the Cotters–and about how Toby’s Corner’s mother and paternal grandmother almost became three-day event horses instead of the dams of two Derby starters–click here.
There’s one other Hound Blog Hunch if you’re the kind of player who likes to bet trifectas: Shackleford, because there is a well-known place in the Iroquois Hunt country called Shackleford Hill, not far from the hunt’s headquarters at the old Grimes Mill.
And if you’re looking for a horse to bet that has nothing whatever to do with the hound blog, as far as we know, the Beagle House hounds have made their picks. Except for Bingo, a teetotaler who also doesn’t gamble. We respectfully suggest $2 across the board on Midnight Interlude (Eider’s pick) or Stay Thirsty (Harry’s choice).
On a more worrying note …
Could Eider, Beagle House’s newest resident, be part vampire? Evidence below.