Scenes from the Nursery

Some of Baffle's second litter of puppies, with Iroquois member and kennel volunteer Cice Bowers. Photograph by Dave Traxler.

THEY’RE growing! Baffle’s second litter of pups are starting to explore their nursery. When Dave Traxler visited to take some photographs, he proved a real curiosity for them. We’ll try to put up a slide show later in the week of some of the great results, but, for now, here are some of Baffle’s most recent brood, the very newest entry!

Bedtime Stories: John and Dorothy Kirk

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

TONIGHT’S Bedtime Story is an unusual one. Chances are, you haven’t heard of John and Dorothy Kirk. We hadn’t either, until the afternoon we walked into d’Arcy Books in Devizes, England. Slipped between the hardback hunting books, we spotted a sunny yellow spine, about the color of a nice autumn squash. It was only about a quarter of an inch wide and made of heavy construction paper. When I pulled the book out of its slot on the shelf, I found it was a lovely, brief series of reminiscences that evidently meant so much to their authors that they had them privately printed by Hyssett & Son, Limited, of Weston-super-Mare, in 1975.

I gather from the preface that the Kirks are a married couple who grew up walking puppies for Mr. Tiarks’s Foxhounds (Dorothy) and the Holderness (John) but then were away from hunting while serving in the Royal Air Force. In retirement, John took on the role of Acting Master at the Weston and Banwell Harriers, and their shared experience with these hounds prompted them to start writing things down. I’m so glad they did! In the preface, Dorothy Kirk wrote, “The kindly comments of friends have encouraged me to believe that there is tremendous interest but astonishing lack of knowledge displayed about the professional skill and arduous work required to put a Pack of Hounds into the hunting field; all sorts of erroneous beliefs being held even by country folk, for of such stock was the Mother who recently was heard explaining the distant hunting scene to her daughter–‘No, dear, there has not been an accident. I think the funny little man in green blowing a trumpet has lost all his dogs’!!”

As someone who abhors the trend of Random capitalization that You sometimes See these Days (excepting, of course, the Pooh-style usage that can be fun), I nonetheless was really delighted to see that Dorothy Kirk capitalized Pack of Hounds and in doing so put them on a par with Mother!

And now, without further ado, the Kirks:

“Towards the end of November the Meet was at Cullum Green, Kewstoke, and we moved off in the general direction of Ebdon. Most of the Field experienced difficulty in crossing the wide ditches that hereabouts in Spring and Summer are attractively edged with a thick embroidery of purple flowering reeds and willow herb but which are now ‘blind,’ full of stiff stark stems and rotting leaves which effectively obscure the opposite bank.

“We were drawing the hedgerows for Foxes, but numerous hares were getting up in front of the hounds in every field, frustrating every effort of the Whips to keep them under control, and eventually leading us astray on to the land of a farmer who not only had a rooted objection to Hunting but also unfortunately was there in person, ready and willing to give his pent-up feelings full expression.

“Hounds were collected and hacked the long lonely road past Woodspring Priory of faraway History on to the top of Middle Hope ridge, the gorse-covered back of which reaches down to that bleak shore where the mouth of the Severn pours its muddy waters into the Bristol Channel.

“Half a gale was blowing across the Severn, bringing a strong smell of seaweed and the tingling lash of salty spray and rain on our faces. Thank goodness hounds spoke almost at once to a Fox in the gorse. As luck would have it, there were three of them afoot, but one was pushed down on to the lonely fore-shore and the hounds went with him.

“Now those watchers on the cliff who had the courage and stamina to face the elements were rewarded by a quite spectacular piece of hound-hunting. The Pack, full of music and undaunted by the frightful weather, stuck to their line among the seaweed and the rocks, slipping and sliding right to the water’s edge and so, for half a mile through silt and shingle, till their quarry swung up on to Middle Hope once more.

“Here, on the short, springy turf, the scent burning and with a wild crash of tongue, the hounds tore away, leaving a near frantic Field held in check by an iron gate which had been ‘locked’ against summer visitors by a pile of large boulders. Once through this obstacle, a glorious heart-warming mile-long gallop set the blood flowing through our frozen features; then another check whilst a second locked, spiked iron gate was removed from its hinges–then at last up with the hounds again on the very tip of Sand Point where our horses had great difficulty in keeping a foot-hold on the steep, narrow ridge.

“Here, in almost unrestricted possession, rabbits caused an additional hazard. We had not seem so many humble coneys for many a year; their little cotton tails bobbing in the bitter wind as they scurried away and dived into thick cover, distracting the attention of the younger hounds.

“It was all too evident that the hounds had lost this wily old Fox, and no wonder: for the wind was now so strong that it seemed to blow the notes from the huntsman’s horn straight back into his face. There was nothing to do but collect hounds and call it a day.

“As we slowly returned towards our trailers and boxes, taking an occasional warming companionable pull at each other’s pocket flask, we were greeted with fresh proof that the ‘looker on sees more of the game,’ for Mr. Leonard Parsons and Gordon, who had remained on the vantage point of Middle Hope ridge, were happy to inform us that they had watched an unhurried ‘Charley,’ quite satisfied that he had outwitted the hunt, make a leisurely return journey along the sheltered side of the ridge, into the self-same patch of gorse from which we had so rudely chased him an hour or so before.”

Beagles in full cry and much more (with video!)

Photographer Samantha Beckett took this marvelous photograph of an Exmoor hound at the hunt's opening meet in England. The Exmoor hounds cross some of the world's most beautiful country.

THE houndbloggers had a busy Thanksgiving holiday, did you? The highlight of our weekend came on Black Friday, or what Clear Creek Beagles whipper-in (and second in command) Jean MacLean has dubbed “Thanksgiving Boxing Day.” The houndbloggers avoided the crowds at the shopping mall and took to the fields instead with the Clear Creek hounds.

It turned out to be a day of excellent sport, with several rabbits viewed (including one caught clearly on video!) and tenacious hound work by the beagles, who puzzled out the lines despite windy, sunny conditions. And just listen to that cry! We got several dramatic runs, and a couple of those are on the video above.

The Clear Creek Beagles aren’t the only hounds that have their own videos. Recently we’ve found some nice videos and images from Exmoor in England, and we thought we’d share them with you while we wait for an end to local deer season and our return to the hunt field with the Iroquois hounds next week.

The Exmoor Hounds

Nic Barker and her friend Samantha Beckett, a photographer, have been providing beautiful photographs and high-definition videos at Nic’s blog from Rockley Farm. The blog entry with Sam’s photographs from the Exmoor hounds’ opening meet is here, and to see the Exmoor’s opening day video, click here.

Tribute to a Foxhound

Finally, we recently read a moving tribute to a retired foxhound named Quasimodo, who died in August. It reminded us of our own hounds who have passed away, both here at Beagle House and at the Hound Welfare Fund. Can hunting hounds retire happily from a pack? As Quasimodo, our own Mr. Box, and countless others have proven, the answer is an emphatic yes! And Quasimodo’s owner Dorothy speaks for us, too, when she writes:

Good huntsmen talk about “the Golden Thread” of communication they have with their pack of hounds in the hunting field. I have, I believe, been blessed by something very real and of that sort with each of the individual hounds I have had the privilege of stewarding in their retirements. They each in their own particular way have found a particular place inside of me, a feeling as unique to each as their markings and their voice. I have known them each, intimately, by ways of knowing that come about not unlike the things of truth or faith or hope.

To read the rest of the tribute to Quasimodo, click here.

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving (and that you didn’t forget to share some of that turkey with your own hounds!).

Bedtime Stories: J. Otho Paget

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

From Paget’s Hunting (1900):

“There have been sufficient rains to lay the summer dust, and there is a slight yielding on the surface of the turf, as a horse canters along. A goodly shower the previous day has left the grass still moist, and there is a delicious coolness in the air. It is barely daylight when you ride up, and after posting your men at different corners, you throw hounds into covert. … The place you are about to draw is ten acres of blackthorn and gorse in the middle of your best country.

“Though you will probably have no use for a second horse, let them come out, and the men may be of use to you in assisting the whips. Another hint: before you leave home, make a good breakfast, however early the hour, or you will probably be tired before your fox.

“You are drawing downwind, so that there shoud be no danger of chopping an old fox, and, riding into the thickest part, you encourage the young hounds to try. Old one-eyed Solomon from the York and Ainsty is busily snuffling at a tuft of grass, probably where a fox stopped a minute on his way to his kennel. The little tan dog from Belvoir forces his way through the narrow smeuse, and then makes a dash at the clump of briers that are interwoven with long grasses. There is a flash of bright red fur, and a white tag disappears in the thicket beyond. A cheer from your lips and a blast on th ehorn brings all the old hounds to the spot.

“The melody soon increases in volume, and in a few minutes every hound seems to be throwing his tongue. Some of the young ones have already joined in, and the rest are following on with the excitement of the cry.  Keep quiet now, and don’t holloa if you see the fox, whilst they are running well. Listen! there are two or three scents, the tail hounds have crossed the lines of other foxes, but the majority of the old hounds still stick to their first-love, and are bustling him round the covert with an echoing crash of music. It must be a dog-fox, and he will very soon have to leave, but at present he thinks the pack are too near to make it safe. There is a sudden lull–now he is away, and you hear the hoof-beats of the whip’s horse as he gallops down ready to stop hounds should they come out. Your orders were to stop hounds and let all foxes go.

“Now blow your horn and take this lot of hounds to where the others are running at the further side of the covert, but if they can hear the cry, they will soon get there without your help. There is music from every quarter, and the litter are now all afoot.”

Bonus points if you know what a smeuse is without having to look it up! And, no, we still haven’t changed the wallpaper below that chair rail, have we?

To get you in the mood for Blessing Day …

… we thought we’d take a look back at some highlights from the cubbing season that ended Wednesday. Some of it you’ve seen already in the recent preview, but a lot of it is footage we haven’t shown before. Most was taken with Zoom, the older of the houndbloggers’ two cameras, so most of it is not in high-definition. But we’ll be taking the HD camera to the Blessing of the Hounds tomorrow morning! (If you’re new to the traditional Blessing of the Hounds ceremony and would like a little background, click here)

We hope the new video will help you reminisce about what we’ve seen of the season so far–and about how far the BA litter and Driver have come, not to mention Paper! Paper has blossomed so far this year and we hope to hear more from him during the formal season.

Thanks to the Hound Welfare Fund, all the canine stars of this highlights video can expect a peaceful, dignified retirement. They give us great enjoyment while they’re members of the working pack, and we value every one. As we prepare to celebrate these magnificent animal athletes at the Blessing of the Hounds, please consider helping the Hound Welfare Fund provide for the hounds in their golden years!

We have pups! (with video)

Baffle, the dam of the current BA litter, with her new puppies by Hawkeye

BORN just in time for St. Hubert’s Day and the annual Blessing of the Hounds, which kicks off the formal season, Baffle had 11 puppies. You read that right: there are 11 (or five and a half couple, as they’ll eventually be counted), almost enough to start a new pack! These are by Hawkeye, who, like Baffle, is an import from England. Baffle and Hawkeye both are from the Cottesmore hounds.

The puppy scrum.

Baffle started to whelp on Friday night, and the last of the puppies was born on Saturday morning. Mother and puppies are doing well so far, and we are looking forward to following their adventures as we have those of Baffle’s first litter for Iroquois, the BA litter who are now in their first season with the working pack. And doing extraordinarily well, we should add!

An interesting side note: because there are already so many BAs (Baffle’s first litter was nine puppies strong), it looks likely that this litter will not have names starting with BA, the first two letters of their dam’s name, as is the usual custom. Instead, to prevent confusion from so many BA names, they’re more likely to be named with HA, for their sire. In which case, we humbly suggest one name for consideration, considering their birthdate: Halloween!

To see about 20 second of adorable puppiness—more than 20 seconds would risk cute overload–click on the video below. Congratulations, Baffle and Hawkeye!

A visitor’s view of the kennel

Author and flat-coated retriever owner/breeder Gina Spadafori gets some face time with Salsa

THIS week the houndbloggers have been hosting Gina Spadafori, an influential author and blogger on dog and companion-animal subjects and the writing partner of “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker. She’s also a breeder and owner of flat-coated retrievers and strongly supports letting working breeds do the jobs they were bred to do. Which led her to the Iroquois kennel.

She visited the kennel on Tuesday and had some interesting observations about our hounds’ lives there. If you think kennels sound dreary, you might be especially interested in Gina’s perspective on how dogs–in our case, working pack hounds–can live happily in kennels.

To read the piece, click on over to Pet Connection.