Okay, okay–Lord Henry Bentinck, MFH of the Rufford and then the Burton hunts in England, actually died in 1870.
But he can still post here, thanks to the written words he left behind in “The Late Lord Henry Bentinck on Foxhounds: Goodall’s Practice.” (Hey, if the man can be published beyond the grave, he can certainly blog)
The Goodall that Bentinck refers to is William Goodall, who hunted the Belvoir hounds in England for 17 years before his death in 1859 as the result of a riding accident.
The grandson of another well-known huntsman, Stephen Goodall, William Goodall had started his hunting career at age 11 as a second horseman and began carrying the horn at the Belvoir when he was just 25. He was widely admired for his natural ability with hounds, and there is no doubt he was devoted to his work with them. In 1849, the author of the sporting guidebook The Hounds of England observed, “William Goodall is, perhaps, one of the hardest-working men alive. After hunting on Monday–no matter at what hour he returns–he feeds his hounds, and then has to ride to the kennels at Ropsley, a distance of fourteen miles. Here he hunts on Tuesday, feeds, and hacks it back to the Belvoir kennels; then hunts on Wednesday. On Thursday he travels with the hounds to Ropsley; hunts on Friday, and back again to Belvoir that night, where he hunts on Saturday.”
Bentinck greatly admired Goodall’s method of handling hounds. Shortly after his 1863 retirement from the Burton mastership, Bentinck, stuck indoors during a blizzard, felt moved to write a letter to the pack’s new Master, Henry Chaplin, extolling the virtues of “Goodall’s practice.” Inspired by the lengthy letter’s wisdom, Chaplin published it privately and then, after Bentinck’s death, publicly.
Here, then, are some of Bentinck’s words about Goodall’s relationship with his hounds, one that Bentinck and many others in hunting’s heyday held up as ideal.
“In handling his Hounds in the open, with a Fox before him, he never had them rated or driven to him by his whips; never hallooed them from a distance. When he wanted them he invariably went himself to fetch them, anxiously watching the moment that the Hounds had done trying for themselves and felt the want of him. He then galloped straight up to their heads, caught hold of them, and cast them in a body a hundred yards from his front, every Hound busy before him with his nose snuffing the ground, his hackles up, his stern curled over his back, each Hound relying on himself and believing in each other. When cast in this way, the huntsman learns the exact value of each Hound, while the young Hounds learn what old Hounds too believe in and fly to, and when the scent is taken up no Hound is disappointed. When the huntsman trails his Hounds behind him, four-fifths of his best Hounds will be staring at his horse’s tail, doing nothing.“The Hounds came to have such confidence in Goodall that with a burning scent he would cast them in this way at a hand gallop, all the Hounds in his front making every inch of ground good; while with a poor scent he would do it in a walk, regulating his pace by the quality of the scent; the worse the scent, the more time the Hounds want to puzzle it out.“On this system, the Hounds are got to the required spot in the very shortest time, with every Hound busily at work, and with his nose tied to the ground.“On the opposite vulgar plan, the huntsman galloping off to his Fox, hallooing his Hounds from a distance, his noise drives the Hounds in the first instance to flash wildly in the opposite direction; four or five minutes are lost before the whip can come up and get to their heads, then they are flogged up to their huntsman, the Hounds driving along with their heads up, their eyes staring at their huntsman’s horse’s tail, looking to their huntsman for help, disgusted, and not relying upon themselves, especially the best and most sagacious Hounds.“A few minutes are lost before the best Hounds will put their noses down and begin to feel for the scent, a second check becomes fatal, and the Fox is irretrievably lost. Often enough, in being whipped up to their huntsman in this way, when crossing the line of the Fox with their heads up, they first catch his wind, and then, as a matter of course, they must take the scent heelways, the Fox as a rule running down the wind. This fatal piece of bungling–so injurious to Hounds–is always entirely owing to the huntsman; it is neither the fault of the whips nor the Hounds; it can never occur when the huntsman moves his Hounds in front with their noses down. …“Goodall’s chief aim was to get to the hearts of his Hounds. He considered Hounds should be treated like women; that they would not bear to be bullied, to be deceived, or neglected with impunity. For this end, he would not meddle with them in their casts until they had done trying for themselves, and felt the want of him; he paid them the compliment of going to fetch them; he never deceived or neglected them; he was continually cheering and making much of his Hounds; if he was compelled to disappoint them by roughly stopping them off a suckling vixen or dying Fox at dark, you would see him as soon as he had got them stopped, jump off his horse, get into the middle of his pack, and spend ten minutes in making friends with them again. The result was that the Hounds were never happy without him, and when lost would drive up through any crowd of horsemen to get to him again, and it was very rare for a single Hound to be left out.”
As Lord Henry Bentinck’s son Charles later wrote in his book Lord Henry Bentinck’s Foxhounds: “A huntsman may never actually make a tactical mistake in the way he draws his coverts, makes his casts, etc., etc., but without sympathy between himself and his hounds he will never make the mythical ‘Heaven Born’ or even a good huntsman.”
You can read more about Lord Henry Bentinck’s thoughts on “Goodall’s practice,” as his letter to Chaplin is often called, online. There are several free copies available on the internet, including a scan of the published booklet at http://www.archive.org/stream/latelordhenryben00lond#page/n0/mode/1up
The full text, including the introduction by Viscount Henry Chaplin, is available (with a few typos, but still very readable) at http://www.archive.org/stream/foxhoundstheirha00bent/foxhoundstheirha00bent_djvu.txt