Beagles, burglars, and Mr. Cocks’s midnight chase

THIS was such a nice little video that I thought I’d post it to help get you in the spirit of the story that follows, even though the film’s timeframe is slightly later than the story’s. I guess you could put both in the category of “found objects” relating to hunting.

The video clip is from a hunt that appears to have taken place in the 1920s in America, but I can’t tell anything else about it. Note the top hats–what a lovely sight!

About a decade earlier, in April 1910 in Hempstead, N.Y., another chase with hounds took place. It was a highly unusual one, although the hounds appear to have provided good sport, of sorts, and a brief account was written up in the New York Times. A friend of the houndblog came across it and forwarded it. If you know anything about U.S. steeplechase racing, you’ll recognize the name W. Burling Cocks, but this Burling Cocks was not our Hall of Fame steeplechase trainer by the same name; this is his great-uncle. The “Meadowbrook set” mentioned here is the Long Island horsey set, including foxhunters, horse-show competitors, and polo players (The Meadowbrook Polo Club is the nation’s oldest).

My only question is, were the hounds in question foxhounds or beagles? The New York Times seems undecided on that point!

Under the headline “Cocks Chases a Thief: Rides After Him with Three Foxhounds on the Scent,” the story continues:

HEMPSTEAD, L.I., April 16. – It became known to-day that W. Burling Cocks of Locust Valley, a prominent member of the Meadowbrook set, had a lively chase after a burglar early yesterday morning.

Mr. Cocks was hunting foxes with four beagle hounds on Thursday afternoon. He lost trace of three of the hounds. When he reached home he sent the only hound that he had brought back with him to the kennel. Later the three others returned, but instead of sending them to the kennel he kept them in the house for the night.

Not long after midnight the hounds set up a tremendous howling, and Mr. Cocks, not waiting to dress, ran downstairs in his pajamas to find what all the commotion was about.

The commotion, it turned out, was about a burglar, and when Cocks peered out on his porch he saw the man leap off his porch and make a run for it. Not one to waste an opportunity for a good run behind hounds …

Mr. Cocks lost no time in dressing, and going to the stable he saddled a horse, and calling the beagle hounds to him set forth on a midnight burglar hunt. The dogs trailed the burglar through the woods near Locust Valley, but lost the scent at a stream into which the wily thief had plunged to throw the hounds off the scent.

Cocks and his hounds returned empty-handed. At home again, Cocks discovered that the man he’d been hunting had been trying to jimmy open the parlor windows, which set off the hounds. I must say those hounds must have had good noses and a fine night for scenting to find the burglar’s line after the time it took Cocks to get dressed and saddle up a horse!

Incidentally, Cocks was about 43 when this midnight ride took. He was a principal in the real estate firm of Cocks & Willetts on Wall Street. When he died just three years later, his estate was valued at over $414,000, including his 100-acre Locust Valley farm. In his will, he gave $14,000 to his servants, and we’d like to think there were some dog biscuits for his burglar-chasing beagles!

We hope the Cocks beagles got a good retirement with their master at the end of their hunting days. Ours do! Please remember the Hound Welfare Fund in your charitable donations this year; donations are tax-deductible, and all money goes to the care of the hounds!

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