Houndbloggers Abroad: Hunting’s historic clothiers (a tale of goss, coodle, and ventile lining)


The head-mapper at Patey. These machines date back to the 1840s and must be repaired by a piano repair company!

The conformature, basically a head-mapper, at Patey. These machines date back to the 1840s. When one breaks down, Patey calls a piano repairman. Why? "He understands how all the keys work," explained one Patey representative.

FOXHUNTING is probably as well known for its attire as for its horses and hounds. Say “foxhunting” to the average citizen, and the first image that will spring to his mind will almost certainly be the iconic red coat that Masters and huntsmen (and male hunt members who have been awarded their colors) traditionally wear. The clothes foxhunters wear are important to the sport, and not just for fashion. For one thing, the attire a foxhunter wears has a lot of meaning attached to it, much as military uniforms do. Some of the foxhunting uniform’s signs and symbols are subtle, like the tradition of professional hunt staff members wearing the ribbons dangling down from the back of their hunt caps, rather than stitched up, as other riders wear them. Or the “code of coat buttons” by which you can quickly discern a Master (four brass buttons) from a Master hunting hounds (five brass buttons).

While in England recently, we decided to explore several of the oldest and most prestigious clothiers patronized by generations of foxhunters;  many are still serving the military, too, which also has a long historic connection to the chase.

Our improvised tour took us first to the London suburb of Dulwich, where the famous hat and helmet makers Patey have their workroom at the back of a tiny alleyway.

CGMO in head-mapper at Patey

Patey has been making hats and helmets for more than 200 years, and the process doesn’t seem to have changed much since then. The first step is to put the conformature on your head, kind of a scary-looking process, although our brave houndblogger volunteer (pictured above) appears undaunted. It might look like a medieval torture device, but the conformature is painless–though it is a bit heavy, as you might expect, considering it’s basically a metal top hat.

The conformature recreates the exact shape of the crown of your head. On top, the machine has a little lid with a card in it. Once he’s fit the conformature properly on your head, the Patey representative shuts the lid, and a series of pins mark the card in a smaller version of your crown shape (and I am told, by the way, that a peanut-shaped head like mine is entirely normal!). Patey keeps your card on file, and that is the form they use to make your bespoke helmet. (Before Patey’s workers make the actual helmet, the pattern needs to be enlarged from fileable card-size to actual head size, and there’s another machine that expands the pattern)

Patey keeps large cabinets whose drawers are stuffed with measurements going back two decades.

Patey makes its riding helmets from a material called “goss,” which is made out of four layers of linen coated with a special shellac paste called “coodle.” Patey cures the goss for five months before steam-heating it and shaping a helmet out of it. Patey workers manipulate layers of warmed goss around a wooden hat block (this takes about five hours per helmet). The block is your very own conform block, a wooden version of your head that Patey makes from the pin-prick pattern the conformature produced (kind of puts a new twist on the term “blockhead,” doesn’t it?).

The proto-hat dries for a week on the conform block. When it’s dry, it’s ready for trimming and finishing–essentially, covered with velvet and trimmed with the traditional ribbon on the back and, if you’ve ordered one, a chin harness.

Cocked hatbox at Patey

This hatbox is for a Napoleon-style cocked hat. Patey still makes cocked hats, mainly for ceremonial occasions.

The hat-trimmers use heavy irons to smooth out the velvet on the hunt cap, and these irons are kept warming over small, round fires at the workshop.

A custom Patey riding helmet will set you back about $600, depending on the exchange rate.

Patey is famous among the hunting set for its riding helmets and top hats, but the company has been making military caps for at least as long as it has been equipping equestrians.

The military hats cost less, but they make up the bulk of Patey’s business in terms of volume (riding caps do in terms of revenue). Riding caps take about six to seven man-hours each, whereas a military cap only takes about one and a half man-hours.

Patey emphatically does not give tours, so we owe thanks to our contact there. We wondered whether he was a great hat-wearer himself or whether he looked at hats the way a baker must look at pastry at the end of a long day. “I never wear hats,” he admitted with a laugh.

We took a train into the heart of London next to visit Dege & Skinner on Savile Row, famous for its hunt coats. Many of you might have encountered Mr. Skinner himself, either in England or on his annual travels through America with his measuring tape, taking custom orders.

The firm grew out of two concerns, one founded by German tailor Jacob Dege in 1865 and the other established by the Skinner family around the same time. The two first merged in 1910, when Jacob’s youngest son Arthur and a young member of the Skinner family, William, founded their own firm on Jermyn Street in London. The original Dege and Skinner association ended just two years later when Arthur Dege returned to his family’s tailoring company after the deaths of his two brothers, and William Skinner died after a riding accident.

But the sons’ friendship and two-year stint together in the tailoring business had bonded the Dege and Skinner families. After William Skinner’s untimely death, Jacob Dege paid for his sons’ educations, and one of them, William “Tim” Skinner joined Dege’s firm. The elder Dege died in 1918, but Tim Skinner had become a fixture. He was instrumental in building the firm’s military tailoring accounts–an important matter during World War II, when clothes rationing nearly wiped out the company’s civilian market for custom-tailored suits.

Dege and Skinner's shopfront on Savile Row

Dege & Skinner's shopfront on Savile Row

The Skinner family eventually purchased the firm after the war. The company still operated as J. Dege & Sons but continued to employ both Deges and Skinners, and in 2000 it eventually adopted the name Dege & Skinner in 2000.

The company’s work history is even more colorful. Before World War II, Dege bought another firm, Wilkinson & Son, which specialized in robe-making, diplomatic attire, and court dress and had made the coronation robes for every English monarch from King William IV to King George VI.

“This somewhat esoteric branch of the tailoring trade came into its own at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953,” the Dege company history says, “when there was a sudden demand for velvet Court dress, diplomatic uniforms, robes for Knights of the Garter, Thistle, and Bath, and, of course, peers’ Coronation robes and coronets.”

During “a few months of frantic activity,” the history relates, “robes which had lain in mothballs since 1937, and survived the Blitz and the subsequent flooding of the basement by the River Conduit, were resurrected and refurbished. Hundreds of silver balls on the tops of coronets were unscrewed, polished, and made good. The entire firm was in attendance at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, robing the Peers of the Realm.”

The beginnings of a Dege and Skinner bespoke hunt coat

The beginnings of a Dege & Skinner bespoke hunt coat

More recently, Dege designed and made the uniforms for “the world’s first-ever Camel Pipe Band for the Royal Oman Police.” (Be honest, you never even knew there was a Camel Pipe Band, did you?)

So, needless to say, if you buy a Dege & Skinner coat, you are joining some very elite company.

Dege & Skinner’s hunt coats are works of art–very, very sturdy art–and their design has changed very little since the early 1900s.

Dege & Skinner sales manager Darren Tiernan was kind enough to walk us through the custom-tailoring process, which starts with measuring and photographing the customer. Why the photos? So the tailors can see exactly how your clothes fit, what unusual aspects you might have, such as one shoulder being lower than the other, for example. You probably wouldn’t even notice that kind of thing about yourself until a Dege measuring tape unfurled along your appendages and the photographs came back, but quirks of posture and physique have an important effect on how your coat hangs on you. Dege understands.

Your measurements and photographs, as well as swatches of the fabric you’ve selected for your coat (or, if you have won the lottery recently, your coats, plural), all go into a large brown envelope which will serve as your permanent record, more or less, at Dege. They do like to take remeasurements regularly.

Your bespoke hunt coat will begin life as a series of brown paper cut-outs that essentially form the pattern of your very own coat.

The needle-and-thread artistry takes place around the corner from Dege & Skinner’s store, in workshops where your coat becomes the warm and wonderful thing you will (providing you lay off the steak dinners and the double-fudge sundaes) keep for the rest of your life and possibly pass on in your will to only the most worthy and deserving of your beneficiaries.

“They do become heirlooms,” said Tiernan, who has seen Dege coats still in active service after 40 hunt seasons. “People pass them down, and people often don’t want to wear anything else.”

A Dege hunt coat will cost you about $3,700 but will, we are assured, last so many years that, actually, it’s really only costing you a few dollars a year. It costs a bit extra to get the snappy Tattersalls lining above the skirt, but what about other features, like the poacher’s pocket and the ventile lining (treated cotton on the skirt that helps preserve it from horse sweat and mud)? Absolutely standard, of course.

A tailor hard at work in Dege and Skinner's workshop

A tailor hard at work in Dege & Skinner's workshop

The coats come in a range of weights, from lightweight cavalry twill to a 32-ounce cavalry twill that Tiernan described as “nigh on bulletproof.”

“I think people come to us because they want traditional, proper hunting clothes,” Tiernan said. “The hunt coat’s design is tried and true. It’s not done for aesthetics; it’s what makes you comfortable while you’re in the saddle.”

“In the saddle” is key. Tiernan points out that sporting coats, whether for riding or shooting, are totally different to tailor than regular civilian attire. “When you’re making a sporting coat, all the rules change from civilian clothes, because you’re accommodating different posture,” he explained.

In addition to robing Peers of the Realm and you, Dege has “regularly won contracts from Her Majesty’s Government for the manufacture of Ceremonial Tunics and Frockcoats for Officers of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Household Cavalry, and the Guards Division,” informs the company’s official history. “Dege uniforms are thus worn on every state occasion, and, in fact, it is the only firm in the world to make officer’s Dress Jackets for the King’s Troop.”

So if you’ve got one of their Hunt Coats, wear it with Pride!

A point of interest before we leave Savile Row … on the wall at Dege & Skinner, we found a 1986 photograph of some members of the King’s Troop, and one of the officers was Captain C. J. Seed, now better known as the MFH and huntsman of England’s Avon Vale pack.

Like many suppliers of hunting attire, Dege and Skinner also has a long history of work for the military

Like many suppliers of hunting attire, Dege & Skinner also has a long history of work for the military

Just around the corner from Dege & Skinner, and directly above their workshop on Clifford Street, is Schnieder Boots (incorporating W. & H. Gidden saddlers, too).  Schnieder’s (pronounced Schneeder’s, not Schnyder’s), has been making custom boots by hand since 1907 and has been run in that time by three generations of Schnieders. The current proprietor is Rudolf Schnieder, who also, incidentally, breeds and owns high-level event horses. He and his wife owned one that competed in the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympic Games, aptly named Mr. Bootsie!

Schnieder’s shop will introduce you to boots you never even thought of before. Some even he never thought of before! When we asked him to describe the oddest request he ever got, he said it was the champagne-colored leather boots with black patent tops. Not for the hunt field, of course. While we were visiting we also spotted a pair of red leather riding boots. One hates to ask.

Schnieder also has dealt with some unusual size requests. He has, he said, made boots as large as a mind-boggling (not to mention stirrup-boggling) size 18. He told us that the larger boot sizes are much easier than small sizes and narrow calves, for the simple reason that it’s a lot harder for a bootmaker to squeeze his arm and hand into a small boot to work on it!

Schnieder offers hunt boots in wax calf or box calf, the difference being that wax calf must be boned–essentially, polished and refurbished with a deer bone–to develop high gloss. Wax calf is higher-maintenance, one supposes, but on the other hand you can literally rub scratches out of it by boning it,and it’s very heavy and durable. The enormously tall boots Schnieder makes for the Household Cavalry are wax calf, and it’s also the preferred leather for professional hunt staff, Schnieder said.

Schnieder says that one of the most important aspects of his job has nothing to do with tanned leather at all. It’s advising his customers on what boot style is proper for their particular discipline.

“If they are just going to be riding around, it doesn’t matter,” he said with a shrug. “But if they are going hunting, I must be sure that they have the proper boot.”

Many new riders love the look of brown or patent tops on hunt boots, but, as Schnieder points out, they’re not for everyone. “In that case, I might gently ask them, ‘Are you a Master?’ or questions like that to steer them to the proper boot if they are planning to hunt,” Schnieder explained.

“But the client is king,” he added. “He gets what he wants.”

Schneider's don't just make cutom boots. They also sell everything from hunt coats to saddles to reins.

Schnieder's don't just make custom boots. They also sell everything from hunt coats to saddles to reins.

About a half-dozen people work on each pair of bespoke boots at Schnieder’s. They’re a team of different specialists: one might cut the pattern, another will cut the leather, another makes the upper parts, and yet another does the soles.

Schnieder’s is easily the most fragrant shop we visited, and it’s no wonder: there are 2,000 pairs of boots on the premises, and there are also quite a few saddles and bridles.

“We have everything connected with the equestrian,” Schnieder said. “Everything.”

Rudolf Schneider is the third generation of Schneiders to run the custom bootmaking business. His clients include foxhunters, polo polayers, and the Household Cavalry.

Rudolf Schnieder is the third generation of Schneiders to run the custom bootmaking business. His clients include foxhunters, polo players, and the Household Cavalry.

We saw everything from a sidesaddle to waxed cotton jackets to wooden boot trees, and pretty much everything in between (including leather accessories).

If the world can’t come to the upstairs shop on Clifford Street, all isn’t lost: Schnieder’s exports to 78 countries.

Keat has supplied horns to huntsmen for more than 200 years, and thebusiness is now run out of Calcutt's

Keat has supplied horns to huntsmen for more than 200 years, and thebusiness is now run out of Calcutt's

Our last stop is not in London, but in Hampshire, at Calcutt & Sons. This tack shop is nationally renowned among English hunting people, and it is the very best international source for second-hand coats, saddles, and boots that we know of. They do custom work and new off-the-rack sales, too, we should hasten to add.

Need a saddle? Calcutt's has them--and pretty much everything else

Need a saddle? Calcutt's has them--and pretty much everything else

Calcutt’s is famed as a general supplier of hunt clothes and horse supplies (their stock includes beagle stockings, which must intrigue the general populace!), but among huntsmen it is known for something else, too–and this is why we included it on our hunting tour. Calcutt’s also is the home of Keat, the maker of hunting horns for more than 200 years.

Keat, or more properly Henry Keat, was founded in 1795 and has been a famed manufacturer of hunting, coach, and tandem horns, according to its company motto. The last in the long line of Keat hornmakers retired some years ago, leaving the English hunting horn field largely to Swaine Adeney (which also is famous for making hunt whips, though its equestrian department had dwindled, sadly, to a tiny corner of the shop, no bigger than a walk-in closet, when we visited last year).

Calcutt's is as well know for its ample supply of used hunt and riding clothes and saddlery as it is for its new stock

Calcutt's is as well know for its ample supply of used hunt and riding clothes and saddlery as it is for its new stock

Eventually, Calcutt’s bought a half-interest in the Keat business, hired a professional musical instrument repair specialist, and revived the historic line of horns. The horns come in nickel, copper, and silver, unbanded or plain, and with a choice of silver or nickel mouthpiece. Their prices range from about $182 to about $1,590 for the banded hallmarked silver model with a silver mouthpiece.

You wouldn’t necessarily think hunt horns would be in large demand. You’d think one would last forever, wouldn’t you? Not so, said the proprietor of Calcutt’s. “You’d be amazed the many ways you can kill a horn,” he observed, adding that he knew of quite a few that had been crushed by hound trucks, stomped by their owners’ horses, or simply lost. Asked how many horns Keat sells annually, he came up with a surprising number that gives you some idea how risky the life of a hunting horn can be: Keat, through Calcutt’s, sells an average of one horn a day.

Curious fact: a blacksmith is involved in the early process of making a huntsman’s horn, molding the horn from a sheet of metal into its cone shape. Who knew?

That concludes our lengthy journey around some of foxhunting’s historic suppliers. All right, strictly speaking it wasn’t about hounds, but, on the other hand, these businesses have grown up around the hound, and without hounds they would not be here. We appreciate them and their support for our sport!

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It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s hounds!

On their way! Strawberry gets wheeled off to be weighed before the flight from Heathrow to Chicago O'Hare

On their way! A houndblogger and a porter wheel Strawberry away to be weighed before the hounds' flight from Heathrow to Chicago O'Hare

YOU wouldn’t normally expect to find foxhounds at the world’s second-busiest airport, but on Oct. 21 four of our canine friends arrived at Heathrow in London to board a flight to the United States.
The two dogs and two bitches started their journey at about 5 a.m. that morning at England’s prestigious Cottesmore hunt, where whipper-in Jack Bevan loaded them into the hound truck for the drive to the city. It was a long day for hounds and houndbloggers alike (not to mention Jack, who had to face London traffic going to Heathrow and heading home again!), but the hounds arrived in good order and now are at Iroquois. They’ll resume their careers as working pack hounds with the Iroquois Hunt, then retire for the rest of their natural lives in the care of the Hound Welfare Fund.
Here’s how the day went. Cottesmore bitches Strawberry and Structure and dogs Samson and Hawkeye got to the airport at about 8 a.m., where the houndbloggers were busily assembling the extra-large traveling crates for them. Whipper-in Jack Bevan pulled in as close to the airport entrance as he could, then unloaded them two at a time and, with Iroquois member Christopher Oakford, led them through the surprised crowd of travelers, right into the airport lobby, where the crates were waiting.
The hounds' arrival: country life comes to the world's second-busiest airport

The hounds' arrival: country life comes to the world's second-busiest airport

 
The hounds all fit comfortably in their crates, which were equipped with water bowls and diaper pads (which a couple mistook for chew-toys, much as Paper did on his long drive from Florida to Kentucky last year!).
Two things surprise you when you travel with hounds. First, how well they adapt to the completely new experience, and, second, the reaction of passers-by, who are fascinated and charmed by the sight of these canine travelers. The hounds are excellent ambassadors for their breed and sport. Well behaved and beautiful, they thumped their tails cheerfully at everyone who stopped by to see them, from airport staff to pinstriped businessmen to parents with young children.
The hounds loaded into their travel crates at Heathrow without any fuss.

The hounds loaded into their travel crates at Heathrow without any fuss.

Anyone in the airport lobby who didn’t see the four hounds in their travel crates soon heard them, thanks to Samson. While Hawkeye, Strawberry, and Structure all curled up immediately, watched the passing people for a while, and eventually just fell asleep, Samson decided early on that this was a day worth talking about. And he did.
Samson started barking at about 8:45 a.m., and he hardly missed a beat until we and the porters wheeled him off for a security check before loading him and his packmates on the plane at 11:15 a.m. He barked standing, he barked sitting, he barked lying down and between drinks of water. Only two things made him stop: interesting activity outside his crate (especially children stopping by to visit him) and a ride through the terminal on the wheeled trolley, so we suspect Samson, like most modern business travelers, was simply fed up with the wait! At least he didn’t have to eat airline food. 
The hounds drew curious crowds and made new friends at Heathrow. Okay, yes, one of them was a little loud!

The hounds drew curious crowds and made new friends at Heathrow. Okay, yes, Samson (just out of the picture to the right) was a little loud!

Coincidentally, one of the American Airlines representatives we met at Heathrow was a foxhunter herself. She was the daughter of a former whipper-in at Ireland’s famous Scarteen Hunt, and she was delighted with this unexpected chance to say hello to some foxhounds again.

"Wow! They're beautiful--and big!" Many of the people who stopped by to ask about the foxhounds were surprised by their size and by their gentle dispositions.

"Wow! They're beautiful--and big!" Many of the people who stopped by to ask about the foxhounds were surprised by their size and by their gentle dispositions.

The hounds have to be weighed before flying, and their crates have to be inspected both for humane and security reasons. They don’t get sent through the same baggage scan that your carry-on does, but they get a special inspection and the same chemical testing that checked baggage goes through, which took place in a cargo- and baggage-handling area. Samson thought the security procedure was especially fascinating and watched that with such great interest he entirely forgot to bark.

Once the hounds and their travel crates passed inspection, they were on their way to the hold of the plane. When we took our seats on the plane about an hour later, we knew the hounds had been loaded, because, you guessed it, we could hear the faint sound of Samson’s barking coming from somewhere under our seats! Fortunately, he quieted down very quickly, and probably slept most of the way back to the U.S.

Zzzzzzzzzzz ... Hawkeye (seen here), Strawberry, and Structure curled right up and went to sleep soon after arriving at Heathrow.

Zzzzzzzzzzz ... Hawkeye (seen here), Strawberry, and Structure curled right up and went to sleep soon after arriving at Heathrow.

The unloading process at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was straightforward. The baggage handlers brought all four crates to the oversized baggage pick-up point in the customs area, where we met them after we passed through immigration. Needless to say, we had declared the four hounds on our landing cards! U.S. customs sent a public health official out to inspect the hounds and their veterinary paperwork, and then we were ushered through customs in fairly short order.

The hounds looked bright when we picked them up, and even Samson was pretty quiet. He barked a few times while we waited to get our own suitcases, but as soon as he got another fun ride on the trolley through customs, he quieted down, perfectly happy to watch the world rolling by again.

Outside, we met Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller, Hagan Miller, and kennel staff member Alan Foy. They had brought the hound truck, deeply bedded with clean straw and with buckets full of water, and they also had a second truck to drive us home and serve as a back-up in case the hound truck had any problems. Fortunately, the drive home to Lexington from Chicago was uneventful. The hounds had plenty of water, had a nice feed themselves when we stopped for dinner, and slept all the way to their new home at Iroquois.

MFH Jerry Miller, kennelman Alan Foy, and Hagan Miller met the hounds in Chicago with the specially equipped hound truck.

MFH Jerry Miller, kennelman Alan Foy, and Hagan Miller met the hounds in Chicago with the specially equipped hound truck.

MFH Jerry Miller and kennelman Alan Foy load hounds into the hound truck for the ride home to Lexington.

MFH Jerry Miller and kennelman Alan Foy load hounds into the hound truck for the ride home to Lexington.

The four new arrivals from Cottesmore will spend some time in quarantine at the Iroquois lower kennel before eventually joining the pack at the main kennel. It will be fun to follow their progress as they learn all about their new surroundings and new huntsman in the Bluegrass. Considering how talkative he was at the airport, we expect Samson will be happy to tell us his opinion of life in the States!

Visiting the Thurlow hounds

A striking young hound welcomes us to the Thurlow kennels

WHILE in England, the houndbloggers were lucky enough to make a quick visit to the Thurlow Hunt’s kennel near Newmarket. The kennel is state of the art, and the hounds, predictably, were elegant and expressive. The hunt’s Masters, Robin Vestey and Anne Fenwick, and huntsman Chris Amatt kindly spent about an hour showing us around and talking hounds.

MFH Robin Vestey of the Thurlow, a keen hound man and a hound show judge

MFH Robin Vestey of the Thurlow, a keen hound man and a hound show judge

The hunt’s origins are ancient, but it has existed in its current form since 1992. Its country contains a lot of plough, and that’s a factor in the hunt’s breeding program, said Vestey. Asked what the hunt hoped to add to its current pack  through breeding, he said, “It’s more what we hope to reduce.” Then he explained that one aim of the current breeding program is to produce hounds without heavy shoulders. That’s to help hounds get through deep going like plough. The pack already has courage and an ample supply of “try so that’s not an immediate worry!

Vestey clearly spends a lot of time pondering hound pedigrees, and he also regularly judges hound shows. That’s a good way stay abreast of what other hunts are breeding, what’s working and what isn’t, and what stallion hounds and bloodlines look like they’ll make good prospects for the future. Vestey noted that hound breeders shouldn’t be overly concerned with fashion, as other things–like the hunt country their hounds must cross, for example–are more important to the performance of the hounds where it counts: on the hunt field.

The Thurlow hounds

The Thurlow hounds

The Peterborough dog hound champion each year is always a popular candidate for breeding, but Vestey also warned that extensive breeding to popular hound or bloodline also can have a downside in reducing the gene pool by limiting outcrosses down the road.

Huntsman Chris Amatt also had some interesting things to say about dog hounds versus a bitch pack. His view is that the males are quicker to get “stroppy,” or uncooperative, when they feel disappointed or interfered with, whereas bitch packs, in his view, are more tolerant. He also feels that dog hounds tend to see the main point of the chase as catching what you’re chasing; bitch packs, he feels, like the hunt for the chase’s sake.

Huntsman Chris Amatt and MFH Anne Fenwick at the kennels

Huntsman Chris Amatt and MFH Anne Fenwick at the kennels

The Thurlow's bitches seemed glad to see us

The Thurlow's bitches seemed glad to see us

On the same day we visited the Thurlow hounds, we also got another special invitation: to visit racehorse trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam at his training stable in Newmarket. Chapple-Hyam’s yard is the second-oldest (the oldest belonged to Charles II!) but is the oldest still in use, as Charles II’s former place is unoccupied and has, sadly, fallen into disrepair.

Peter Chapple-Hyam and his terrier at his yard, Newmarket's oldest working stable yard.

Peter Chapple-Hyam and his terrier at his yard, Newmarket's oldest working stable yard.

We thought it was such a beautiful yard that we’d include it here, even though, strictly speaking, it’s not hound-related (but he does have a terrier, does that count?).

Chapple-Hyam’s yard was built in the 1840s. After he moved in, he found the bell that belongs in the clock tower abandoned in a horse stall. Now he plans to restore it. But any renovations are complicated. The yard is on the historic register, meaning he has to get government approval for any repairs or restoration he does to it.

The hay room window at Peter Chapple-Hyam's yard.

The hay room window at Peter Chapple-Hyam's yard.

The houndbloggers are heading home tomorrow with four new hounds in our luggage. But we still have some accounts to write up from our visit to England and will be sharing those (with photos) in the not-too-distant future.

Houndbloggers Abroad: Hounds between the covers (of books, that is!)

The Ways' bookshop in Burrough Green, near Newmarket

The Ways' bookshop in Burrough Green, near Newmarket

WHEN we’re not chasing hounds chasing game, the Houndbloggers’ favorite hunt is for old sporting books. We prefer ones dealing with the management, breeding, and training of hounds–and especially if they include great old anecdotes about specific hounds, their personalities, and their adventures (or misadventures, as in Captain Pennell-Elmhirst’s great piece about the Ootacamund Hounds in Ooty, India).

There’s probably no better place in the world to shop for those treasures than in England. Hunting with hounds has such deep roots there, and the love of the dog is so generally strong, that you are likely to stumble on some extraordinary and delightful find every place you try, from the second-hand bookstore on the corner to the expensive sporting specialist shop. Every year, we visit England and return overloaded with tomes that have taken our fancy, often on fairly obscure topics. England’s bookstores, in fact, seem to specialize in the obscure, which is one reason I love them so much. How could anyone resist the slender volume titled Arthropods of Medical Importance or the obviously intriguing Life of the White Ant found in d’Arcy’s second-hand bookshop in Devizes?

Here are a few of our favorite sporting shops, excerpts of books we’ve recently spotted there, and their websites or contact information, in case you’re interested in inquiring about your own particular passion, from the history of the grouse to house-training your own dog.

Most of these are in England’s southwest because that is where we spend most of our time. But there are excellent second-hand and sporting specialist book shops throughout England and around the world. If you know of one and would like to share information about it, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to do a later post on them.

R.E. and G. B. WAY, Burrough Green, near Newmarket.

Contact (from the US):  011-44-1638 507217. From the UK, dial 01638-507217.

This lovely shop’s location near the heart of Britain’s racing country attracts a lot of Thoroughbred lovers. But their enormous and varied stock covers many, many canine and hunting subjects, too. Their hound-book inventory, in particular, is outstanding. They’ve got single copies of exceedingly rare or hard-to-find books, but they also have multiple copies of desirable volumes considered classic and essential for foxhunters and hound lovers, like The Noble Science of Fox-Hunting by F. P. Delme Radcliffe and Ikey Bell’s Foxiana, all beautifully aged.

The Ways' bookshop occupies a lovely old house that is completely stuffed with sporting tomes, photographs, personal hunting journals, and the like

The Ways' bookshop occupies a lovely old house that is completely stuffed with sporting tomes, photographs, personal hunting journals, and the like

The shop is open by appointment and occupies a marvelous ivy-covered house just a few miles outside of Newmarket. Among the unique offerings there are several personal, handwritten hunting journals kept by individuals who hunted with some of England’s most renowned packs at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

In the Ways' front grande, a hint of what topics lie inside

In the Ways' front garden, a hint of what specialities lie inside

The Ways’ shop took the biggest toll on our bank account, and it is fairly expensive, but the fact that they have multiple copies of many books does allow the shopper some chance to compare prices.

Good to know: The bathroom on the ground floor also serves as the half-price room! The books there cover a huge range of subjects and fill the shelves all around the, er, bathroom equipment. Worth a visit.

A Find: The Science of Foxhunting, by Scrutator. Published in 1868, this volume is a presentation copy signed by the well-known 19th-century huntsman Frank Goodall, who gave it to a friend whose name, unfortunately, we can’t decipher! (UPDATE! We’ve found that it is inscribed to the Hon. Alan Pennington, an apparently very dashing and forward sort of rider to hounds who also served as Master at the Holderness for one season before “resigning on account of the scarcity of foxes,” according to one reference.)

A View: “We dislike to see hounds at anytime huddled up together round their huntsman, like a flock of sheep penned in the corner of a field by a dog snapping round them. When the entry have become steady, and are admitted into the pack, discipline of this kind  is as injurious as unnecessary, since we have remarked that hounds kept in such  strict order are more inclined to run riot than those treated with more confidence.

“The late Assheton Smith was, in this respect, the most  trusting huntsman we have ever seen in the field, and we were often amused with the sudden change in the behaviour of his hounds on his arrival at the place of meeting. Whilst in charge of the kennel huntsman and two whips, they trotted along in a compact body, solemnly and demurely, not a hound venturing to step out of place; but no sooner did they catch sight of their master, or hear his voice, than, breaking loose from further restraint like boys out of school, they rushed eagerly to meet him, jumping and playing round his horse, with other manifestations of excessive delight.

“The character of the hounds seemed changed in a moment, and as they moved off to draw covert, an independence of action was assumed totally at variance with their former deportment. They knew no whipper-in dare touch or control them in their huntsman’s presence, to whom, however, they yielded that cheerful obedience so pleasing to behold in all animals attached to a kind master, a word or wave of the hand being sufficient to recall or turn them in any direction.”  –The Science of Foxhunting, by Scrutator, p. 165-166

John Head, who owns the Salisbury shop with his wife Judith

John Head, who owns the Salisbury shop with his wife Judith

JOHN AND JUDITH HEAD, Salisbury

Website: http://www.hollom.demon.co.uk/

In Salisbury, our favorite stop is John and Judith Head’s, one of Britain’s top sporting booksellers. They specialize in highly prized rare volumes and sporting prints, but don’t be afraid to peruse the handsome shelves if your budget is small. We’ve found terrific books there for prices starting as low as £7, about $13. Small hunting prints, including some by Munnings that are difficult to find in print form in the US, also start in that price range. Also on offer: signed prints by Snaffles, Lionel Edwards, and John King.

But the real beauty of the Heads’ shop is in the variety of rare and high-end stock on a wide range of sporting and countryside subjects. My favorite purchase from there is my copy of Hon. George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley’s Reminiscences of a Huntsman from the late 1800s, and more recently we have spotted some beautiful treatises on hound and dog training.

Another plus to visiting the Heads’ quiet shop in Salisbury is the chance of meeting John and Judith. They are wonderful storytellers and are also a wealth of information about books, field sports, and much more.

The Heads' shopwindow in Salisbury offers a tempting glimpse at the delights inside, from rare signed prints to valuable volumes.

The Heads' shopwindow in Salisbury offers a tempting glimpse of the delights inside, from rare signed prints to valuable volumes.

Good to know: The Heads’ shop is closed on Saturday. On the other hand, if there is a game fair or horse trials going on any particular Saturday, you can probably find them there!

A Find: Tell Him, by Lt.-Col. G. H. Badcock. We usually spend most of our time looking at the books about hunting and hounds, but we happened across this slim but interesting volume about dog training and thought it worth mentioning, although it is less representative of the Heads’ stock than the more beautiful and rare books are.

A View: “The whole secret of success with a dog lies in being perfectly natural with him, and trying to copy someone else is not being natural. How many times have I said that you cannot fool a dog by trying to be other than yourself, I should be sorry to say, but certainly, in regard to training, it is the greatest truism of all. Every normal dog has the power of thought-reading very highly developed, and they will give their confidence to one person who they know understands them as readily as they will withhold it from someone who does not, and I admit at once that this is a very difficult proposition to tackle, if the gift for understanding and winning the confidence of a dog is not a natural trait.” —Tell Him, by Lt.-Col. G. H. Badcock

D’ARCY BOOKS, Devizes, Wiltshire

Contact:  011-44-1380-726922 from the US. From the UK, 01380 726922.

This charming two-storey shop on the High Street in Devizes is a must-visit for us. It’s known in our family as “McGregor’s,” because the owner is a Mr. McGregor; he usually can be found at the shop on Thursdays and Saturdays, sitting in a lawn chair just to one side of his shop entrance, wearing his fingerless gloves and reading some interesting book.

D'Arcy Books in Devizes has small sections on field sports, equestrian, and canine topics that never fail to yield marvelous finds at very fair prices.

D'Arcy Books in Devizes has small sections on field sports, equestrian, and canine topics that never fail to yield marvelous finds at very fair prices.

Mr. McGregor at his second-hand bookshop, d'Arcy Books

Inside, d’Arcy Books is the epitome of an English second-hand bookshop, complete with creaky stairs leading up to the history and military sections. You can find anything and everything there, from cookbooks to ancient guidebooks describing local landmarks, and, in fact, the section reserved for sporting and equestrian books is fairly small. But we have always, always been extraordinarily lucky at d’Arcy, and I never seem to venture in without leaving with something exquisite–and usually with some change still in my pocket!

One of our two best finds there was a pristine biography of the famed but tragic jockey Fred Archer, who rode Iroquois (for whom the Iroquois Hunt is named) to victory in the 1881 Epsom Derby. The book dated from the early 1900s and had the softest red leather covers, and it is one of the best biographies I have ever read, of anyone.

D'Arcy Books also excels in local Wiltshire and British history and countryside books, like these pretty old guide books.

D'Arcy Books also excels in local Wiltshire and British history and countryside books, like these pretty old guide books.

The other miraculous find: an exceedingly rare presentation copy of artist Joan Wanklyn’s Guns at the Wood about the Royal Horse Artillery’s elite King’s Troop.

Good to know: The sporting section in d’Arcy Books might look small, but new books are added there regularly, and it is always worth checking back there even a couple of times in a week. It is one of the best sources we know for wonderful volumes at good prices. Also worth a look: the local history and countryside sections.

A Find: The Way of a Dog, by William Beach Thomas. Essentially an essay on living with dogs, this lovely and moving book is written largely in the form of a letter to the author’s dog.

A View: “Though I let you wander freely, it scarcely occurs to you to leave the garden. A walk with me is so much greater sport than a solitary ramble that you have half-forgotten that the second is a pleasure at all. But when I promise a walk you even open the wicket gate, which leads to the fields, by yourself and hurry to the juncture of road and path to await, in utter excitement, my decision. When the field path is chosen every nerve in you tingles to delight. Companionship with me–that is your consummate pleasure; and if two animals enjoy companionship as you and I do, each must surely understand the other, by virtue of some sense of which this reason, or our boasting, is mere branch. If you possess no reason, you are conscious of something better and more full of meaning even than instinct.” —The Way of a Dog, by William Beach Thomas

The famed "Bibliotherapy Room" at Mr B's Bookshop in Bath features free coffee and a fireplace

The famed "Bibliotherapy Room" at Mr B's Bookshop in Bath features free coffee and a fireplace

MR B’s EMPORIUM, Bath

Website: http://www.mrbsemporium.com/

For new books, we heartily recommend Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. It occupies three floors of in one of Bath’s remarkable champagne-colored stone buildings, and it is, without question, the best bookstore for new books that we have ever been in.

Mr. B’s isn’t a sporting specialist; it is a general-interest shop that specializes instead in very high-quality editions of old classics and new works. But we include it here because it offers a notable array of works about countryside subjects that are near and dear to many foxhunters’ and dog-lovers’ hearts. Not only can you find unusual works pertaining to wildlife and country life here, but almost every book they offer is also gorgeous, making it an outstanding place to purchase gifts or books pretty enough to collect on their looks alone!

Head up a twisty staircase to the shop’s second floor, and there you’ll find the shop’s horse, dog, and country life sections. Conveniently located in the next room is what Mr. B’s calls its Bibliotherapy Room: comfy chairs facing a fireplace, with free coffee on offer in Mr. B’s own mugs. All of which makes it very tempting to sit for a long while, paging through dog books.

Mr B's Bookshop is hands-down the best shop for new books that we've ever visited--anywhere!

Mr B's Bookshop is hands-down the best shop for new books that we've ever visited--anywhere!

Good to know: Mr. B’s has a resident dog, Vlashka. Ask to meet her!

A Find: Words from The Countryman, edited by Valerie Porter. A collection of wit, wisdom, article snippets, observations, and letters to the editor that have appeared in The Countryman magazine, published since 1927.

Two Views:

“While staying with a friend in Scotland, a very deaf man of my acquaintance thought it would be interesting to try the effect of his electric deaf-aid on the 15-year-old dog. He put it in place, and when the owner called the dog it immediately started to its feet, barked, and wagged its tail. It had not heard its master’s voice for years.” — from 1953, in The Countryman

“Motoring one night recently I saw, on rounding a bend, that the whole roadway ahead was dotted with pairs of tiny green points, gleaming iridescently in the darkness, and continually appearing and disappearing. I found that I had met an army of rats on the move, and that the green points were the creatures’ eyes. The gleaming brilliance of animals’ eyes, when caught in the glare of headlights, is a common sight to motorists. A cat’s, a dog’s, or a rabbit’s eyes usually shine green. The eyes of a fox flash back bright crimson, the eyes of a bullock a kind of rich amber.” — From 1931 in The Countryman

Mr B's specializes in beautiful, upmarket editions of familiar classics as well as new books. These gemlike special editions often feature gorgeous covers that makes these books ideal gifts.

Mr B's specializes in beautiful, upmarket editions of familiar classics as well as new books. These gemlike special editions often feature gorgeous covers that makes these books ideal gifts.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this e-ramble through these shops. I know the Iroquois hounds haven’t been able to hunt much recently due to the terrible weather, and so that means their devoted followers have been “in kennels,” too! Here’s hoping this “paper chase” of sorts has helped keep you occupied until you and the hounds see sunshine and the hunt field again.

Sporting treasures, these from John and Judith Head's shop in Salisbury

Sporting treasures, these from John and Judith Head's shop in Salisbury

Hound of the Day, Oct. 7: Bonsai

Caption Here

"Dear me! So that's a coyote!"

Hounds out : Sayso, Parrish, Payton, Star, Sting, Paper, Hailstone, Gaudy, Barman, Dragonfly, Bonsai, Stam, Stax, Sassoon, Savvy, Saba, Sage, Saracen, Griffin

ON one hand it seems improper to pick a “hound of the day,” because a pack of hounds should perform as a pack, and thus should equally contribute to the pursuit of quarry. It would do no good to have one or two hounds far superior to the others especially when hunting coyote. A coyote can weigh anywhere from 20 to 75 pounds, and their diet includes cats and dogs. If we are to serve our landowner farmers in keeping the coyotes dispersed, we have to chase them with multiple hounds who can find their scent and push them to get up and move. Most farmers don’t mind seeing the odd coyote passing through, but they do mind seeing four or five together, because there is strength in numbers and a coyote pack is a threat to livestock and house dogs. Coyotes have no predator, because they are at the top of the food chain in the animal world. Paradoxically, because of the hunt they are allowed to peacefully co-exist in the area. We have great fun and sport chasing them, and they are less likely to bother calves and humans. So farmers aren’t likely to shoot and poison them, which they would have to do if they were a menace.

On the other hand, there are moments on a hunt day where one hound does something so remarkable as to remind us all of their individuality even though they are supposed to be “just plain cooks and dairymaids.”

The chase is like a chess game between the coyote’s intelligence, instinct, and scenting ability versus that of the hound.  The “checkmate” really goes to both if they play a long and entertaining game, resulting in the quarry finally eluding the hounds.  All go home in hopes of meeting again another day.  This special matching of the wits between God’s creatures is what foxhunters really enjoy.  It is not, as some may think, a “sight hunt,” in which dogs see a coyote and chase it until they don’t see it anymore.  Instead, it is a “scent hunt”: hounds mostly use their noses to track the path of the quarry – and the coyote, aware of this, tries to throw them off the scent.  Coyotes behave cleverly while being pursued, using their complete familiarity with their own habitat to challenge the hounds.
The Oct. 7 hunt was a good example of the casualness with which a coyote will regard the chase on a day when poor scenting conditions give him the advantage.
The meet was from Dulin’s farm.  A long procession of trailers arrived with people and horses anxious to enjoy such a beautiful fall day.  The hound list included some first-year entries: Hailstone, Gaudy, and (of course!) Paper, plus three new drafts from England: North Cotswold Bonsai, North Cotswold Dragonfly, and Cottesmore Barman.  The new drafts have spent the summer getting used to all the new smells from unfamiliar plants animals and grasses native to Kentucky but not found in Britain.  One wonders what goes through their minds when they get the first whiff of a coyote.
The first draw was the biggest covert near this fixture, Pauline’s Ridge.  It is very thick with undergrowth and would likely take a long time for the hounds to work through thoroughly.  But, as it was, they found halfway through and erupted in cry.  A dark coyote was viewed across the top of the Ridge but was not the hunted one, as hounds moved west in the covert, full cry.  Hounds lost the scent at the end of the covert, casting themselves about madly in frustration.  It was clearly a bad scenting day.  However, this is good for the puppies, as they watch and learn from the older hounds to put their noses down and work.  They don’t really know yet what they are smelling for, but they feed off the energy and excitement of the pack, and they understand something important is happening.
Hounds continued to work well together, hunt staff counting all on after the next few coverts.  They were in the corn by Salts Barn when a coyote was viewed one field west.  Later in the season, hounds would be harked to the view, but today a training opportunity presented itself, and the hounds would have to work up to the line unassisted.  This is the kind of scene that thrills the field: first Stax became electric, his nose to the ground, as he frantically moved about, searching.  Then Payton, noticing this, hurried to Stax, then Sassoon, then Barman–all smelling the same little piece of earth.  Their bodies were coiled like springs ready to lurch forth, if their noses would confirm the scent in a certain direction.  Paper, sensing the excitement, dropped the small steno pad of paper he had found in Salts Barn and rushed over to help as well.  The houndwork was brilliant, they just couldn’t work it out solidly enough but kept moving west occasionally speaking as they would find and lose again.
After about a half mile, still feathering,  hounds came up a hill through a small clump of trees.  There on top of the hill sat a big blond coyote, casually observing the approaching entourage of hounds, huntsman, and field members. Hounds didn’t see him initially, as they all had their noses down.  Had it been a good scenting day, one imagines the coyote would have been long gone, but he wisely sat still knowing that by not moving he wasn’t throwing out a lot of scent.
The huntsman couldn’t contain herself and harked the hounds to the view.  They rushed forward, noses still down.  Bonsai raised her head, probably distracted and unsure about the noise the huntsman used to hark hounds to the view.  Bonsai hunted one season at the North Cotswold, and every huntsman has his own tones and voice inflections to communicate with hounds. Suddenly, Bonsai froze in place: she was face to face with a coyote no more than 10 feet away.  She stared, then looked over her shoulder at the huntsman with her intense, black-lined golden eyes, searching for confirmation that this was the right quarry.  She faced him again as the hounds erupted in cry.  His yellow eyes seemed to squint before he shot away.
In less than a second Bonsai showed much intelligence.  She didn’t just blindly rush forward to attack, she carefully thought things through, not wanting to run riot (I could imagine her saying “Dear Me” in an English accent).
This coyote took full advantage of the bad scenting day, weaving through cattle, disappearing into a 10-acre corn field. Found there, he passed into another large, thick covert, then vanished as the temperature rose and the sun began to burn any hope of scent away for good.
Special thanks … to field member Martha Johnson, who was last in line to go over a jump but pulled her horse up and waited to let one and a half couple of hounds go by even though the field was long gone, galloping
away.

— Lilla Mason

Hound of the Day, Oct. 3: The Great Grundy

Grundy, shown here in October 2006 with joint-Master Jerry Miller

Thank you, Grundy! The great hound himself, shown here in October 2006 with Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller

FOR most field members, the first hunt day is a beginning. But to the Masters and hunt staff it is, in many ways, a grand finale. If you take a sort of “journey to the center of the earth” look at what has occurred behind the scenes to make this day possible, you’ll see what I mean.  Case in point: our grand hound Iroquois Grundy ’98 died several years ago, but he had a tremendous impact on the Oct. 3 opening hunt. 

A great hunt can only become great if it has a great hound breeder behind it. Grundy is an excellent example of this. So much thought, care, and consultation go into mating hounds in order to produce the kind of hunters that can give outstanding sport. Iroquois makes its mating choices with special care, because we breeed relatively few hounds and have committed to keep them all from cradle to grave. For any hunt, Iroquois definitely included, the idea is to breed hounds that are great hunters themselves but who will also keep providing great sport through future generations. That is what Grundy, who was bred by North Cotswold huntsman Nigel Peel out of the Peterborough champion Grapefruit, has done for Iroquois: give great sport himself, then through his sons and daughters.

When breeding hounds, you pick what you want to add to the pack by looking at its breeding and considering what it will contribute once it is an experienced hound. For instance, we don’t expect anything from Paper this year, but his breeding suggests that, down the road, he should be a great cold-nosed hound that could be invaluable on bad scenting days.  

We had a lot of trouble with splits until Grundy, whom we imported from the North Cotswold in England, showed in his second season to be a non-switcher.  In other words, he always stayed on the line of the original hunted coyote.  So we, along with many other hunts, used him as a stallion hound. Thankfully, he passed that trait along to his offspring.  Ten of the hounds that hunted on opening day Oct. 3 are Grundy’s blood, and they reflected his immense contribution to our pack.  Rarely nowadays do we have splits.

With much anticipation, 40 field members and staff met at Brookfield Farm for the first cub-hunting morning.  The hounds we had out Oct. 3 were Finite, Finesse, Sassoon, Savvy, Salute, Saracen, Saba, Allie, Grindstone, Sayso, Latch, Flash, Sage, Stanway, Griffin, Stam, and Glog. Like the first day of school, there was nervous excitement in the air. It was a bright sunny morning with a temperature of about 45 degrees.  There had been a full moon and clear skies the night before.  I had woken up several times in the night supposing that all nocturnal animals would be busy hunting, and by morning would be tucked away to rest somewhere. 

We have not seen much game on houndwalks, not like in previous years. Common sense tells me they must still be out there, we just can’t see them, although only two landowners said they had seen a coyote this summer.  I opened my bedroom window to see if by chance I could hear that familiar coyote laughter, but the night was quiet.

Each season, the hunt country poses new and different challenges and limitations.  Some land gets closed off by development, some coverts get leveled for farming, and some years there is drought.  This year, there is thick vegetation from the unusually wet summer.  It’s going to be hard to see the hounds in the coverts as they draw–and even harder to see game.  At the landowners’ request, the first draw of the morning on Oct. 3 would be a large corn field in a corner bordered by two busy roads.  Consequently, we carefully chose hounds for the day who were experienced in the dangers of traffic. They also were ones  the hunt staff could stop if they ran something that would cross those roads, leading them into danger.  As always, the hunt staff and Masters’ primary concerns are respect for the landowners and the safety of the hounds and field members.

The first draw

The first draw was about a mile from where the hounds were unboxed, which was ideal for loosening them up and settling them down.  It is so funny to see how different they are on a hunt day than on houndwalk!  For instance, Finite and Finesse have been so ho-hum on houndwalk, expending the least amount of energy necessary and spending time at cow pies and trails of muck left by manure spreaders, smelling and smelling until they were forced by hunt staff  to catch up. They are sisters and do everything together to such an extent that we’ve long called them “two bodies, one brain.”

Sometimes on houndwalk, hounds will drift ahead of me, and, just to school them, I’ll call them back.  But Finite and Finesse will not volunteer to come back. Instead, they’ll stand still as though they don’t want to cross the same ground twice.  They know I’m going to walk forward to where they are, so why come back? Geeeeeeeeez.  But not on opening hunt day!  Once I blew the horn and left meet, there were the girls out front, tails wagging, purposefully moving forward, on a mission and focused.  I had to use my voice to steady them, and they responded without looking back at me – obedient but lost in concentration. The girls were switched on!

"Two bodies, one brain": Finesse and Finite are two sisters by Grundy. They did him proud at the Oct. 3 opening meet!

"Two bodies, one brain": Finesse and Finite are two sisters by Grundy. They did him proud at the Oct. 3 opening meet!

We held the hounds up as the field of 30-plus riders moved around the sides of the corn bordered by roads.  The hounds respected the hunt staff and impatiently waited as all the riders got in place.  I can’t tell you how proud we all were of them–all the summer training pays off.  It is little things like this, being able to hold the hounds up until all is ready for them to go in a covert, that are such great rewards.  Then being able to take them towards it, but requiring them to go in exactly where the huntsman wants instead of just rushing forward.  Those subtleties that put such polish on a pack also reflect great whips.  It makes you very proud, but you also smile as you remember all the mistakes hounds have made along the way and how much guidance and training they needed to reach this pinnacle.

Hounds spilled into the corn, drawing well considering there was no way to ride through the corn, and so I had to just stay outside.  They spoke some, a good start.  We left there and drew more coverts to the south: Davenport’s, Wee Young’s, Raymond’s Scrub.  It was pleasing to see such beautiful houndwork; they were very thorough in underbrush so thick you could only hear them moving through and only occasionally see the tips of their wagging tails. But I was getting anxious to find game.

A Lesson–and a View–at Little Kansas

Next we hacked to two smaller corn fields in Little Kansas.  The first was very long, but only about 15 rows wide.  I wanted to draw west to east. Hounds went in, and halfway down the field, most spilled out, moving towards the bigger corn to the north.  Early in the season, you really want hounds to stay in the covert they are drawing unless they find game or are called out by the huntsman.  If half the hounds are in one covert and half have drifted to the next, and then suddenly one group fires off after a coyote, the rest will be left behind.  That’s  especially detrimental to the puppies.  So I called to the hounds that had left the covert, turned my horse towards the little corn, and lieued them back in.  It was risky to try to do without a whip there to reinforce my command, but the intensive summer training stood hounds in good stead again. 

It occurred to me they might have been winding something in the bigger corn, but cub-hunting is as much about hound training as hunting, and I want the hounds to be disciplined in coverts. As soon as they got into the bigger corn, they erupted in full cry.  Fieldmembers were spread out on the west end as a way to discourage game from going across that fenceline out of the hunt country.  Round and round the hounds went.  A whip tally-hoed a coyote out of the corn south.  But hounds did not follow, indicating to me there were multiple coyotes in there, and the one the whip saw just got flushed out.

One of the hardest things about hunting coyotes is the fact that they often travel in groups, so if you find one you actually might have found four or five together.  Most of the time, they will each run a different direction, seemingly to deliberately split the pack of hounds.  It is a real muddle if three couple of hounds are running east another five couple running south, and the rest running north all after coyotes. This happened a lot in the early 1990s when coyotes first established themselves in our hunt country.  The correct way to handle that scenario is that the huntsman must choose which hounds to follow, blow the horn and hark hounds out of the covert. Any hounds following another coyote are a split: the whips must stop them and send them on to the huntsman with the main pack.  This is very difficult to do, as a whip only has a few seconds to stop hounds and divert their attention back to the horn.   Once hounds have gotten half a field away on a coyote, it’s almost impossible to turn them back, and by then the huntsman and sound of the horn is long gone.

Grundy died several years ago but is memorialized by this life-sized bronze at Miller Trust. It shows him doing what he was made to do: chase coyote without switching!

Grundy died several years ago but is memorialized by this life-sized bronze at Miller Trust. It shows him doing what he was made to do: chase coyote without switching!

Hounds were still full cry in the corn, and another coyote was viewed going south out of the covert. A few minutes later, a third very small coyote came barreling out the east end, followed closely by “two bodies one brain”–Finite and Finesse–with the rest of the pack in hot pursuit. 

I said under my breath, “Thank you, Grundy!”  The coyote slipped through a wire fence too tightly woven for the hounds to penetrate.  I galloped forward and opened two gates to let hounds through, they cast themselves east to no avail, then returned  to the fenceline where they last smelled the quarry, as they often do when they make a lose. 

Grundy’s Bloodlines Win the Day

I cast them into the bean field that was on the other side of the fence.  Finite erupted again, running hard north. Hounds honored her, and the little coyote was viewed again.  It ran through another tight fenceline and turned west, only to be turned back into the beans by fieldmembers going in early.    Hounds were delayed getting through the fence and made a lose.  The Masters had seen the coyote get turned and go back into the beans.  But it’s amazing how coyotes seem to just vanish when they lie down and hide!  The beans were not that tall, but he had disappeared into thin air.

I took the hounds and began making a half moon cast in the field.  Long minutes went by, hounds were tying but could only find a very angry skunk! I noticed Finite, Finesse, and Grindstone trotting off to the north end of the field, though most of the hounds were in the center.  The hounds spoke, and tally ho! The coyote was viewed going east out of the north end of the beans.  He  ran several fields through cattle, and the hounds eventually lost the scent.  It was getting hot so we called it a day.  And what a day to begin with!

Grundy would have been proud of his pups, and his spirit shone in them through their honesty as a pack.

One other note of honor: the award for Last Field Member Out. This one goes to Cheri Clark, who graciously led Master Jerry Miller’s horse back to the meet, as he prefers to dismount wherever hounds are loaded–and it was a long hack back to the meet!

Lilla Mason

Tattersalls update: fox sales

YOU might not have noticed that occasionally we do get comments, which appear at the bottom of Full Cry posts, and we got an especially interesting one on the Tattersalls post. Buck Wiseman, joint-Master and huntsman of the Clear Creek Beagles, is a scholar of hunting and its history and often can provide the most interesting insights. This morning he commented with some fascinating information about the fox sales held in the olden days at Tattersalls. To read it, scroll to the bottom of the Tattersalls post below, where you’ll find a link to comments at the lower right. Click that link, and you’ll find his comment. Happy reading!