It was all about the hounds at Peterborough in England late last month as hunting folk and hound lovers gathered for the Royal Foxhound Show.
American hound show buffs might have been surprised by the setting. Peterborough’s show takes place not in a stately grass ring on some storied estate, but in a concrete-floored indoor arena. That’s actually better for the participants, some huntsmen point out, because the concrete floor harbors fewer natural scents than grass does. Grass rings are more picturesque, but by the time several dozen hounds have shown in their classes, the grass also becomes cluttered with lost bits of biscuits, which then can distract later hounds in their own classes.
(One note regarding scent, though: at Peterborough, our correspondents and quite a few competitors and spectators noticed an interesting thing. The bitches, who showed in the afternoon, did not seem to show nearly as well as the dogs had in the morning classes, and a number of people ringside theorized that this might have been due to the fact that a ringkeeper mopped up the concrete floor after each class, clearing away waste with what appeared to be water and disinfectant. If the water was mixed with disinfectant, could the accumlating chemical scent have put hounds in later classes off their game? We wonder!)
Peterborough has the flavor of a national fair for hunting people. There are row upon row of kennels housing the most beautiful hounds in the world from some of the sport’s most revered packs. There are also stalls to tempt your wallet, selling everything from antique hunt whips to gleaming hunting horns to sporting art, ancient tomes, kennel coats, custom Patey helmets, and handsome tweeds. But even those delights could not compete with the show ring itself for the crowd of dedicated hound aficionados.
For huntsmen, Masters, and hound breeders, Peterborough is a useful chance to see what everyone else’s breeding looks like and to compare notes with others about what crosses work best on the hunt field. One thing that stuck out to the Iroquois Hunt contingent was the dominance of the Duke of Beaufort’s stallion hound Bailey ’03, whose get filled the classes. Some breeders at Peterborough expressed concern that Bailey’s popularity eventually could shrink the pool of available outcrosses, which could become problem in for future breeding. But there was no denying his influence in the pedigrees.
It’s interesting to see the trends in a hunt’s breeding, and regular Peterborough attendees who view packs year after year can spot when a hunt’s breeding program is on the improve as well as when it hits a bump in the road. One indication that all is not well in a breeding program, for example: loss of hounds’ size and scope. But spectators’ eagle eyes aren’t just looking for flaws, they’re also picking up signs of the next great stallion hound or brood bitch–perhaps with thoughts of breeding their own stock to that line in the future.
Green the dominant color
Speaking of dominance, the Duke of Beaufort’s and the Heythrop continued their historic rivalry in the show ring, piling up rosettes between them. When the seasoned sporting writer and Peterborough historian Michael Clayton noted that “Peterborough has become very green,” he wasn’t referring to environmental friendliness–he meant that the dark green coats worn by both the Beaufort and Heythrop staff had come to seem unbeatable. The Beaufort, in fact, took the big prize of the day when its doghound Farrier ’07, winner of the stallion hound class, went on to take the doghound championship; that was the Beaufort’s eighth Peterborough doghound championship, and their dog Gaddesby ’07, reserve champion in the stallion hound class, finished third in the championship, too. Gaddesby, by the way, is the sire of current Iroquois puppy Driver, out of Dragonfly.
The Cottesmore finished second in the stallion hound class to the Duke of Beaufort’s eventual doghound champion Farrier with Cottesmore Badger ’07. Badger got an especially loud round of applause, partly, we imagine, because he represented an unusual incursion by a non-Beaufort and non-Heythrop hound.
We had a rooting interest in the Cottesmore hounds, having a long relationship with the pack and some of its bloodlines in the Iroquois pack. Their outstanding doghound Stampede, in fact, is the sire of nine puppies out of Cottesmore Baffle, whom we imported this spring. So Iroquois had good reason to celebrate along with Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman and whipper-in Jack Bevan!
Luminaries, old friends, and good hound stories
Legendary Cottesmore Master and huntsman Capt. Brian Fanshawe also was on hand to enjoy his pack’s successes, and he pronounced himself “very proud” of their performance.
Speaking of Capt. Fanshawe, here’s an interesting story he told. One of the reasons Fanshawe is famous (and there are many!) is for bringing the highly successful ST Carlow bloodline from a disbanded Irish pack to the Cottesmore, launching one of the great hunting bloodlines in the United Kingdom. (“They are terribly easy to handle, nearly like pet dogs,” he once told Michael Clayton for a history of the Cottesmore. “They need plenty of hunting, but they are biddable, and they have what Sir Peter Farquhar called ‘fox sense.'”)
One day, Fanshawe explained at Peterborough, he met up with a huntsman from Melbourne, Australia, who mentioned that he, too, had some old ST Carlow blood in his pack. Fanshawe was understandably skeptical. But it turned out, Fanshawe said, that the Australian was right. It was little known that a single male from the Irish STs had indeed been shipped to Australia sometime in the 1800s, where his blood lives on! The Iroquois pack also has this wonderful blood through our importation of Cottesmore, Bicester, and North Cotswold hounds. We would love to know more about the original Australian ST Carlow hound, and we’re putting out the call to anyone who knows the tale to share details with us. In the meantime, we’ll see what we can find out on our own and try to get back to you with the more complete story.
Also on hand at Peterborough this year and seated ringside throughout the day was Fanshawe’s cousin, Capt. Ian Farquhar, Master of the Beaufort. Others seen and noted: the Berkeley Hunt’s Henry Berkeley, sporting photographer Jim Meads, and Philip Stubbings, formerly of Iroquois (about 10 or so years ag0) and the Belvoir and now professional huntsman of the Blankney in England. We were especially pleased to see Philip again. He appears to be doing very well at the Blankney. He also made our day by mentioning that he had seen an article in England’s Horse and Hound magazine about the Hound Welfare Fund the week before the show. Philip said he was especially pleased to see old Stamina’s picture accompanying that story. One of our most beloved retired hounds and an import from the Cottesmore when she was a puppy, Stamina died last year.
“It was really striking, the number of different hunts that have woollies now,” Lilla said. “I think there were four or five hunts that had woollies at Peterborough this year. Of course, the Bicester and the Cottesmore had woollies, but there were three or four other hunts that also brought woollies, and that was eye-opening. Woollies haven’t usually been fashionable in the show ring, and we wondered if that trend is slowly changing.”
One thing the Iroquois group particularly liked was a small but pleasing tradition: the winning hounds’ puppy-walkers were invited to accept the hounds’ trophies on behalf of the winning hunt. That’s a nice touch that reminds us again that bringing a puppy along often really is the work of a team.
Peterborough was only the start of a brilliant week for our intrepid Iroquois correspondents, who also attended a major game fair at Belvoir Castle, visited kennels, and went roading hounds through the English countryside with the Cottesmore. More on that in a later post!