Great stuff from the vault

House hounds on the stairs

The house hounds in their observation post

WE at Beagle House will be glad to greet a New Year. We can’t deny that some great things have happened to us this year: we’ve enjoyed writing the hound blog, and we’ve had a lot of fun meeting its readers. It was a great luxury to spend two weeks leafing through hunting and hound history at the National Sporting Library. Best of all, we adopted Bingo, who was on death row in Nashville, Tennessee, before we heard about him and went to pick him up. Watching his delight at having a home and a pack of his own has meant a so much to us. And we all end the year in good health and good spirits, generally speaking.

But we do miss Felix, and far too many of our other wonderful hound friends like Iroquois stalwarts Bonfire and Salt and our good friend Badge passed away this year, making life emptier for all who knew them.

Bingo: Happy, happy, happy!

The great New Year’s traditions, of course, are looking back with year-end roundups and looking forward with resolutions. We’re doing something slightly different: going through our old scrapbooks, file folders, e-mails, and boxes to rediscover some worthy or just plain entertaining things that needed rediscovering. This also proves my contention that sometimes it’s good to be a pack rat!

Here are a few of our favorite rediscoveries.

Weaver’s New Job

Carrboro, North Carolina, animal control officer Amanda Stipe picked up Weaver, a stray foxhound, near the town’s farmers’ market in the spring of 2001. She decided to adopt him herself, but she couldn’t take him home until she was off duty, so she took him to a local animal shelter, explaining that she and her husband would be back to get him in a few hours.

The local News & Observer picks up the story of Weaver’s near miss, which reminds us a lot of Bingo’s:

Unbeknownst to Stipe, Weaver was a repeat offender. They’d let him go once before. Now, he was back. He wa sput on death row.

When her husband, Fred, arrived, the shelter was busy. He told the woman he had come for Weaver, but insisted she help the others in line first.

The woman looked at him. Then she took off, sprinting to the back. ‘Don’t do Weaver! Don’t do Weaver!’ she screamed over and over again.

Now, THAT is a close call. Stipe and her husband adopted him just in the nick of time, and Stipe ended up putting him into training as an agility dog. Again, from the News & Observer story by Leah Friedman:

She noticed right away how he took to agility challenges, like jumping through tires and walking across a see-saw.

‘I picked up that he needed a job,’ she said. ‘He liked the structure and form.’

He got so good that Stipe entered Weaver in competitions.

And he won.

All of them.

In 2007, at age seven., Weaver became the United States’ top-ranked male agility dog, and he’s been the cover boy on issues of the magazines Dog Fancy and Dog Sport Magazine. When he’s not busy competing, Weaver sleeps on the Stipes’ bed and plays with the family’s other hound, a beagle named Barkley.

Good save, Stipes!

Snow Dog and other glorious videos

This priceless and hilarious video was sent in late this year by one of our Alert Readers. We had to share it with you. See it here.

Also in the favorite images category this year, a beautiful slideshow from the Irish Times, with commentary from hunt member James Phelan, of a day’s hunting with Ireland’s Waterford Hunt. In addition to the gorgeous photographs of horses, hounds, and the Irish coastal landscape, there is some good audio of the pack, the horn, and the huntsman.

The hounds, Phelan explains, are Old English hounds, and they are black and tan with only a few white markings here and there.

To access the photo slideshow, click http://www.irishtimes.com/indepth/slideshows/waterford-hunt-two/

And be sure your sound is on!

Noteworthies in Baily’s

Seen all the good movies? Another dinner out sound too boring? Nothing but reruns on TV? Here’s a better form of entertainment: pull out an old edition of Baily’s, the British hunting directory (actually, the world’s hunting directory). They have a new website which is plenty cool, but, for me, nothing beats the old red hardbacks for curious notes, drama, and sentimental tear-jerkers.

Really.

Perhaps the most interesting bits in Baily’s, oddly enough, are the sections on special presentations and obituaries. Both are located to the rear of the older editions (and, much like wandering through your favorite antiques store, you’ll find lots of intriguing things on your way back to special presentations and obituaries).

The entries are brief but vivid. From the obituaries for 1913-1914:

Abbott, “Bob,” of Thimbleby, an octogenarian. The members of the Hurworth Hunt presented him with a scarlet coat and a silk hat, in which he used to appear with that pack and with the Bilsdale, of which he was the oldest follower.

Baldock, Col. E., notable in the Shires and a pioneer of polo.

Blacklock, Lieut. J. N. S. (8th Hussars); died from a hunting accident in India.

Carr, Henry F., hon. sec. Silverton Foxhounds and Harriers for eleven years with the greatest tact.

Cay, Mrs., one of the victims of the disaster to the Empress of Ireland, eldest daughter of the late Colonel G. C. Cheape, an ex-M.F.H., and Mrs. Cheape, Bentley Manor, Worcestershire. She was a beautiful horsewoman and absolutely fearless.

Cotes, Lt.-Col. C. J., well known in Salopian hunting circles.

D’Esterre, H. A., regular follower of the hounds in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire; alleged to have been shot by Germans as a spy.

Minto, Lord, probably the only man who ever took his bachelor’s degree in racing kit; degree day happened to fall on the date fixed for the steeplechase known as ‘The Whip,’ chief event of the University racing calendar. Putting his spurs in his pocket and hiding his boots and breeches under his gown, young Melgund managed to escape from the Senate House after his share in the ceremony, jumped on a hack, galloped seven miles to the course at Cottenham, and arrived in time to ride and beat the winner of two previous years.

Morris, Martin; thrown from his horse and broke his neck on his way home from East Kilkenny point-to-point races. He took part in the race in which Captain D. M’Calmont fell, and, jumping off, ran back to the assistance of the captain, who was pinned under his horse. That Mr. Morris himself should have lost his life within a few hours was inexpressibly tragic.

Oates, Captain, succumbed in the Scott Antarctic Expedition, was once a master of hounds in India.

Paget, Lord Berkeley C. S., a great supporter of the South Staffordshire Hunt. He led the Meynell for fifty minutes when he was only 14 years old. On another occasion he pounded the whole field by jumping the Blithfield Park palings, and was alone with hounds in consequence for twenty minutes.

That’s just for 1913-1914. In those brief lines, a glimpse of important historic events like the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Empress of Ireland catastrophe, the stark horror of World War I. You also have the colorful flashes regular hunting men and women, now forgotten, made during their hunting lives, and quick snapshots of notable hunting runs and incidents.

Occasionally their very simplicity makes them especially poignant, as in the 1915 obituary of H. Cholmondeley Pennell; “once a good man to hounds; born 1836.”

The presentations pages have a sentimentality all their own:

Barnard, Will, huntsman to the Fitzwilliam, on retiring, a purse containing 500 pounds, and an album containing the names of the subscribers.

Daniels, W., huntsman of the Taunton Vale Hounds, a solid silver Georgian tea service, accompanied by an album containing the names of over 250 subscribers.

Hayes, Frank, the new huntsman to the Mendip, a cheque for 83 pounds from the members of the Cotswold; a clock from the puppy walkers, and a purse of gold.

Witherden, Carey, a silver teapot from the Bexhill Harriers.

Which brings me, I think, to my resolutions. Inspired by this saunter through Baily’s, I believe I will resolve to serve as hon. sec. of the Iroquois with the greatest tact, and to, if I prove worthy, become well known in Salopian hunting circles.

Happy New Year, everyone! And let’s hope for fewer freezing conditions in 2010 so that we may all see more of the hounds and the hunt field–safely!

Please remember the retired hounds when planning your tax-deductible donations this year! Donations to the all-volunteer Hound Welfare Fund are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to aid the retired and injured hounds maintained by the fund.  Donate online or by mail!

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Bedtime Stories: Frederick Watson

An occasional series in which we wish our readers a happy good night, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

“HOUNDS, like all real artists, sing on the smallest possible provocation, but they prefer the night before a hunt because they have not dined, and feel–quite naturally–extremely aesthetic.

“Hound singing has been resolutely ignored by musical authorities. Even the bagpipes have had their own dismayed literature: and there are, one may presume, handbooks on the triangle. But although serious-minded representatives of the BBC have lain in English dew to connect up Bridge parties all over the place with the hesitant and rather niggardly transports of the nightingale, the solid, sustained, and purely Slavonic symphony of foxhounds has been deliberately ignored.

“If the night is clear, and so painfully still that strangers in The Pig and Turnip can listen without opening the bedroom windows, well-bred hounds feel it a religious duty to acquaint all subscribers, members, farmers, villagers, foxes, and vagrants, within a radius of three miles, that there will be a bit of sport in the morning. That, in fact, was happening when this chronicle opens.

“As the clock struck 1 a.m. and everybody was nicely asleep all along the Muchley valley, little Wistful (who being harrier-bred was a promising soprano) rose dutifully on the sleeping-bench and, with a preliminary tuning note or two, quavered an opening bar. It rose and melted away. Her brother, Wayfarer, blinking with ignoble slumber, threw in his throaty alto. Two mournful voices rose with anguished but limited cadence. Hubert, the disillusioned kennel tom-cat, twitched his abandoned whiskers as he crouched by the boiler-house door, but what were too harriers in the empty moonlight? Ravisher and Comely, Crinoline and Trespass–a little late but in excellent voice. Then Cosy, Warrior, Tapster and Vanity, Bouncer, Ranger, Damsel, and Hornet. The mournful chant went up, quavered, wavered, and as those fine basses Warlock, Samson, Harper, and Lawless came in, the chord fell an octave, the harmonies blended, the full chorus grew and sounded, melted a little and was sustained. But here was not finality. That came with old Conqueror, whose hollow note, like a sonorous dinner-gong effulgent and deafening, gave a sense of high tide before the ebb. There was Welsh in the pack–too much by half as Owen (who had come from Sussex) said–and where there is Welsh the range of voice is operatic.

“The moonlight shed its pale radiance on the ecstatic faces, the shuttered eyes, forlorn muzzles and quivering throats. The whole kennel was in it now. Twenty couple altogether. The night had been soundless and, with ever-extending consternation, the valley was more and more aware that, according to their old law and heritage, hounds were singing …”

from In the Pink or The Little Muchley Run, by Frederick Watson (1932)

May your own hounds sing you to sleep tonight in anticipation of a great season’s hunting to come. Merry Christmas from the hound blog and all the Iroquois hounds, retired and active!

Snow hounds, a hunt country panorama, and some random jottings

Rosie Wilson sent this picture-postcard-perfect photo of her hound puppies

THE YEAR is winding down, it’s the holiday season, there’s a little Bailey’s in my glass, and it’s getting on toward bedtime–a potent mixture for inducing nostalgia in the sleepy houndblogger.

Out with the hounds this afternoon, it occurred to me how lucky we are to have use of the beautiful land in the Iroquois hunt country. Landowners and farmers really are the backbone of foxhunting–along with the hounds and the game–and we should appreciate them every chance we get. Standing atop a breezy hill this afternoon on Boone Valley Farm, the thought occurred to me that those of you who aren’t familiar with Iroquois might like a quick peek at some of our hunt country. This view rpresents one of the most beautiful panoramas in the hunt country and takes in a few places very fsamiliar to those who regularly follow hounds over it, such as Boone Valley Farm and Wee Young’s Covert. I’m still learning the names and locations of some of the coverts, which turns out to be a good deal more complicated than you might think. To give you some idea, here’s a rough map that Steve Snyder sketched out for us this afternoon while we were following the hunt in the four-wheeler:

Try keeping all THAT in your head! The hunt staff do, which strikes me as a minor miracle. Steve’s map helped keep me oriented properly as we buzzed along the roads around Boone Valley, Foxtrot, and other notable landmarks in the country. But it was no match for the sheer beauty of the land, even on a cloudy afternoon with a chilly wind blowing in. This brief video panorama hardly does it justice but gives you some idea:

We were in the middle of a lovely piece of land watching one of man’s ancient pastimes, but it is striking to note how much modern technology now contributes to our ability to protect the hounds and to carry on hunting even as development encroaches–in fact, the gradual incursion of roads and subdivisions is one of the reasons technology has become a feature of many hunt fields. Back in the 1800s, huntsmen and Masters bemoaned the coming of railway lines. And well they might: the railway lines didn’t just cause a nuisance in bisecting the hunt country and making it more difficult to cross, they also endangered hounds. Reading periodicals of the era when railways were relatively new, it is sad how often notices appeared reporting the death of hounds on railroad lines. Today, the car is the biggest risk to hounds in many hunt countries.

The hunt staff at Iroquois carry radios, the hounds wear tracking collars, and the kennel staff work the roads in their hound trucks, cell phones and radios on, all part of maximizing safety.

Foxhunting equipment today includes radios and cell phones for the humans, and tracking collars for the hounds

Even so, as we scanned the countryside and watched the horses and hounds from our vantage point on Boone Valley Farm’s highest hill, we were reminded that even with modern technology now on the hunt field, huntsman and hounds are part of an old, old ritual, and no technology can replace the hounds’ instincts and training or the close bond they have with the people who hunt them. And thank heavens for that! You can’t manufacture a hound’s sagacity or bravery.

Speaking of bravery … something we saw today has inspired us to inaugurate a Game as Grundy Award, named for the late great Iroquois hunting and stallion hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason, leg still in a cast, returned to the saddle for an hour today to accompany the hounds with joint-Master Jerry Miller, who has been carrying the horn while Lilla is recovering from a broken ankle. It was great to see her out again, and we wish her a speedy full recovery!

And now the houndbloggers will have to hie off to bed to dream of hounds. It’s just a few minutes now until Christmas Eve! We hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas!

A Christmas fox wishes you a happy holiday season!

Doing your end-of-year tax planning? Don’t forget to consider a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund! Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the care of the retired hounds.

Hounds around town

Espresso, a Scottish deerhound, and Froggy the whippet

UPDATE: Still looking for a unique holiday gift? Use the FULLCRY code on your order from MyDogMug.com (read about the offer here) or purchase Hound Welfare Fund merchandise, and you’ll be helping retired foxhounds at the same time!

BEFORE leaving Middleburg, Virginia, and the National Sporting Library, the houndbloggers spent an afternoon enjoying the town. As it happened, we weren’t the only ones out enjoying the nice weather and the Christmas shopping. Everywhere we went, we bumped into hounds of various sizes and breeds. I’d never seen a Scottish deerhound in person, so Espresso (pictured above) was of special interest. And we are already whippet fans, so Espresso’s friend Froggy, nattily attired in his warm coat and Christmas scarf, was also a welcome sight.Down by the bookstore Books and Crannies, we ran into another hunting hound breed you don’t see too often: a petit basset griffon vendeen, better known by their owners and breeders as PBGVs. They are rough-coated French bassets, as the name suggests, and I have only once seen them in a pack. They are adorable, as you can see from the nice example named Riley, below.

Riley, a petit basset griffon vendeen

Riley was never a hunting hound. She was a show dog, now retired, and we saw her in just about every shop and cafe we visited, so she has a highly active social life! For those of you who want to know more about this interesting hound breed, here is a little information from the PBGV Club of America’s web site:

This small hunting dog has an intriguing and charming appearance and personality. But it is important to remember that the PBGV is, first and foremost, a hound developed to hunt game by scent. Furthermore, his physical evolution is directly related to the environment and terrain of the western coast of France, the Vendée, characterized by thick underbrush, rocks, thorns and brambles. This difficult terrain demanded a hardy, alert, bold, determined, intelligent hunter with both mental and physical stamina.

The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a proud member of some 28 hound breeds which are bred in France even today to serve their original purpose. They are used to hunt small game, especially hare and rabbit, in France, other European countries, the U.S. and Canada. Most French hound breeds came in large and small versions and were used for different prey. The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen was used for such large game as roedeer and wolf, while the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen was used to trail and drive smaller quarry, such as rabbit, hare and sometimes even feathered game.

In addition to seeing three different kinds of hounds, we also ran into one celebrity pony: Molly, the pony who survived Hurricane Katrina only to lose her right front leg after being attacked by a dog. She’s now fitted with a prosthetic foreleg. Molly was visiting Middleburg after making a special appearance at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she met veterans and their families in an event co-sponsored by the medical center and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Molly the Katrina survivor and equine amputee made an appearance at the Books and Crannies bookstore

This day filled with animals closed out our stay in Middleburg, but I’ll continue to periodically post information from the National Sporting Library’s archives. Speaking of which …

Are you a sporting scholar?

If you have a research project related to field sports, consider applying for a John H. Daniels Fellowship at the National Sporting Library. The library is an excellent resource for anyone researching sports from foxhunting and beagling, to polo and racing and general horsemanship, to fly-fishing and shooting. If you are working on a book or other project requiring research into these topics, look into the fellowship application here. The application deadline for the 2010-2011 season is February 1, 2010.

Fellows receive free housing, a stipend (maximum $2,000 per month), a workplace with a computer at the library, and–trust me, this is a big benefit–free use of the copy machine at the library while on their fellowship term. Fellowships are open to both U.S. and foreign citizens. Applicants generally may seek fellowships for periods of up to 12 months, although foreign fellows may be limited to 90 days, depending on visa issues.

Best of all, you get to indulge your love for sporting research in the library’s collections, including their rare books and archives.

Cuppa joe, helpa hound

MyDogMug.com will give 10 percent of your purchase total to Hound Welfare Fund if you order there using the code FULLCRY

WE couldn’t help ourselves. It was the best mug we’d ever seen. With Christmas right around the corner, wouldn’t a breed mug make a fun gift for a dog-lover you know? Naturally, we went for the foxhound mug, but MyDogMug.com has got 11 pages of breeds, from Afghan hound (white or brown!) to Yorkshire terrier.

We spotted them in Highcliffe Clothiers in Middleburg, Va., but you can order them online. Here’s the best part: use the code FULLCRY when you place your order, and MyDogMug.com will give 10 percent of your total to the Hound Welfare Fund.

They also have cats, wild animals, and some downright crazy things that are tremendously fun (traditional Chinese dragon, anyone? Treble clef for the rock star in your life? How about a Volkswagen or a soccer player?).

The mugs are dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and they’re nice and big! Perfect for coffee, hot chocolate, or a big swig from whatever’s in your flask. I love my foxhound mug so much I’ve got it right on my desk as the official Hound Blog Pencil Holder. They’re a sturdy white ceramic. The animal’s head forms the handle, and the rest of its body is painted onto the mug, along with the breed’s name.

Dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and lots of fun, besides!

MyDogMug.com isn’t limited to mugs, either. They’ve also got Christmas ornaments, salt and pepper shakers, and note card holders.

So if you’re looking for a clever and useful gift for the animal lover in your life (or to treat yourself!) try MyDogMug.com–the hounds will thank you!

The weird and wonderful world of horse and hound

A heart-stopping moment for a high-jump competitor, preserved in the Gerald Webb papers at the National Sporting Library

SOMETIMES you come across stuff you just have to share. That’s happened a lot in the last couple of weeks here at the National Sporting Library. I’ll be poring over dusty tomes from hunting history, or scouring a huntsman’s ancient scrapbooks, or perusing the leather-bound Country Life and The Field magazines from the last century, and something unusual or eye-catching will pop up. Most involve hounds but don’t really apply to my research. Some, like the Country Life photograph of a giant mushroom (37 inches in diameter!) that was labeled “Five Pounds of Edible Fungus,” don’t fit in anywhere. But these curiosities are too wonderful to let go. So they fit in here.

J. Mell, the oldest foxhunter of the time in North Carolina, photographed with his most unusual hunting horn

Like Mr. Mell here. There’s no telling what year he had his photo taken, but here’s what the back of the photograph said: “J. Mell, one of General Lee’s men, age 84, oldest fox hunter in North Carolina, wearing the horn which he carved from the horn of a steer captured by him from the Federal forces at Petersburg, Nov. 5, 1864.” That looks like a mighty nice Walker hound you’ve got there, too, Mr. Mell.

The silver collar was given in Madison County, Kentucky, "to the Fastest Foxhound in the State" at a field trial on April 25, 1866. It is lined in red leather and is fastened "by a small padlock with a secret spring by means of which its circumference may be adjusted to the neck of any Foxhound," according to its history. The field trial was held three times consecutively, and a foxhound named Rock, owned by Bill Terrill, won the coveted silver collar twice.

Some of the weirdest items in the National Sporting Library’s collection aren’t photographs. They’re words, stories, accounts of events that happened on the hunt field. Or in a Los Angeles office building. This is from The Sportsman’s Review in the early 1900s:

The chase began in the gymnasium on the third floor of the Knickerbocker Building on Olive Street near Seventh. It ended with the capture in a steam bath cabinet of a small but exceedingly spry and bloodthirsty beast of the cat, coon, or marten family.

For nearly two weeks the occupants of the big skyscraper have been mystified by tracks over the floors, desks, and furniture. The tracks were believed to have been made by an astonishingly large rat or a cat with a curiously shaped foot.

No glimpse of the strange animal was caught, however, until yesterday noon, when George Bartini, the jiu jitsu instructor in the establishment, opened a small dressing room in the gymnasium. Bartini has the reputation of being afraid of nothing, but when he opened the door he let out a yell that could be heard outside the building and made a dash for the stairway.

With brooms, fencing foils, Indian clubs, and other weapons, men chased the creature into a bath cabinet.

The hunt field, such as it was, managed to tip the creature into a cage, where “it barked much like a small and exceedingly peevish terrier and snapped savagely at any article stuck through the meshes of its cage. The animal is about two and a half feet long, brownish gray in color and has a long black-and-white ringed tail. ”

The verdict was that the quarry was a civet cat, but no one ever figured out how it breached the ramparts of the Knickerbocker Building.

If you think the civet cat sounded well dressed, how about Lord Ribblesdale (below)? The very essence of dash, yes?

The elegant Lord Ribblesdale shows how a gentleman dresses for hunting

The writing of the late 1800s and early 1900s was often clever and frequently florid. You could open The Field or Turf, Field, and Farm and find more words in a paragraph than most people put in a page nowadays. An example, from an 1873 story that led The Field‘s “Hunting” column:

“There is a story told, of the bygone three-bottle day, to the effect that an old gentleman, whose rubicund visage gave suspicious indication that his precepts as regarded temperance did not exactly tally with his practice, felt called upon to lecture his son on the vice of over-indulgence in stimulants.”

Got that? Essentially, he was a teetotal-preaching drunk.

For sheer beauty, it’s tough to beat the rare book room’s volumes of Daniel’s Rural Sports, the first of which was published in 1801. These were donated as part of the extensive and valuable collection that John and Martha Daniels donated. The leather covers surround inlaid watercolors on vellum. Together, the volumes are valued at $5,000, and it’s easy to see why.

A volume of Daniel's Rural Sports, part of the widely varied Daniels collection

Inside the covers of Daniel's Rural Sports, a history in bookplates

This volume tells some amazing tales of canine and hunting feats and also includes this nice sentiment: “Where has Zeal, Fidelity, Boldness, and Obedience, been so happily united as in the Dog? More tractable than man, and more pliant than any other animal, the Dog is not only speedily instructed, but even conforms himself to the movements and habits of those who govern him. Savage must that nature be, which can ill treat a creature who has renounced his Liberty to associate with Man, to whose service his whole life is devoted, who, sensible of every kindness, is grateful for the smallest favour, whilst the harshest usage cannot make him unfaithful; he licks the hand that has just been lifted to strike him, and at last disarms resentment by submissive perseverance.”

Feeling wrinkly? Consider Ulpian, who has, I assure you, got you beat in the wrinkles department.

Ulpian the Wrinkly

Ulpian, photographed in 1914, was one of many wonders to be found in Country Life‘s pages. This long-running magazine and its other British sibling, The Field, provided some of the most entertaining headlines and stories. I found a story this morning in an 1874 issue of The Field that discussed “The Octopus and Its Eggs.” Octopus? Eggs? Seriously? There was also a summary of a game–cricket, I think–between the Royal Engineers and The Wanderers; hard to imagine they were very compatible in temperament. The American periodical Turf, Field, and Farm also provided an impressive array of topics for its readers’ edification, ranging from “Strange Stories about Rooks” to “Gudgeon Fishing” to “A Wonderful Eel,” as well as a surprisingly riveting competition of “base ball” between the employees of the New York and Brooklyn post offices (presumably, their games were never called off on account of rain!).

Speaking of surprisingly riveting … It’s hard to tell who got more gussied up for this hound show, but they deserved to win–and they did!

While we’re talking about Country Life, how about this fellow? Word: you can’t beat the Country Life‘s letters to the editor department for obscure topics.

What the ... ?

I’ve also found a new artist to fall in love with. He’s not new (he lived from 1857 to 1927), but he’s new to me, and his name is Gustav Muss-Arnolt. The National Sporting Library has a group of nine hound paintings that Muss-Arnolt did in the 1890s, and they were my favorite things at the library. I will leave you with the largest of them, a portrait of a hound named Matchless who appears to personify the quality of sagacity that we always hear applied to hounds:

Matchless. Doesn't he look as if he sees right into your soul?

Needless to say, it will be hard for this houndblogger to leave the marvelous vault, shelves, and galleries of the National Sporting Library. Fortunately, I’ve stocked up on interesting stories that I can unwind over the next few months or years, so the National Sporting Library’s books, archives, photographs, and collections will continue to make regular appearances here.

Thank heavens we have such a priceless resource right here on our shores! I hope you will support them by joining, so that they can continue to help keep the history of field sports alive, thriving, and available to the public.

The Great Hound Match of 1905-Part 2

Many thanks to the National Sporting Library for access to its archives and for use of the photos. Among the original documents there are hunting diaries kept by both Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith.

THE competing hounds, the Middlesex Hunt’s English hounds and the Grafton Hunt’s American hounds, took a break on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1905. The “score” was essentially even, with no clear winner in the book yet. But word was out: the Great Hound Match of 1905 was providing some of the best sport American foxhunting had ever seen. On the Sunday that the two packs rested, intrepid hunters from nearby Warrenton and Clark County, Virginia, arrived en masse with plans to join the fun when the Middlesex hounds resumed the competition on Monday in what was now becoming known as “the Market Harborough of America,” according to one reporter, a reference to the heart of England’s famed Leicestershire hunting country.

“The farmers and landowners have received the hunting contingent royally,” the same paper noted. “Not only have they willingly offered their fields for hunting, but have done all in their power to further good sport. The Piedmont Hunt has done all in its power to protect the farmers, repair the damage done to wire by cutting and keeping an actual record of all injuries received by the farmers on account of riding over their lands. … In this way a fine hunting feeling is spreading through Piedmont valley, and there can be no doubt that very shortly this country will be the Mecca to which all fox hunters will turn for sport.”

Participants in the Great Hound Match meets were provided with invitations and badges for each meet

Monday dawned overcast with scenting judged good for the meet at MIddleburg. MFH Henry Higginson’s Middlesex pack, hunted by the hunt’s English professional huntsman Robert Cotesworth jumped a fox in their very first covert just 10 minutes into the hunt, “And hounds were in full cry at 7:35,” the judges’ report informs.

There were two checks in the run, one for three minutes among cattle at 7:50 and a second for two minutes at 8:15, before the pack ran the fox to ground–the first time in the match that a fox was accounted for. Judge H. L. Movius called it “a fine run” and considered that “the hounds ran very well, although they did not show very much speed.”

The other two judges, Dr. Charles McEachran and James K. Maddux, were more effusive. McEachran said: “Today’s hunting was in my opinion the best shown to-date. From the time the fox was found with exception of two checks, one of three minutes, the other of two minutes, they held to th eline splendidly. They ran their fox to ground, and every hound in the pack hunted, was up at the earth. From the time the fox was found until he was run to ground, the field had 57 minutes of as good a run as anyone could wish.”

“The work of the Middlesex hounds far surpassed what I had expected to see English hounds do here,” Maddux reported. But he ended with a speculative note of doubt, adding, “But while they hunted admirably and gave splendid sport, I do not think they ran fast enough to kill in this country.”

Accounts of the Middlesex run were printed in the London Daily News, New York Herald, and Boston Herald–an indication of how widely the Great Hound Match was, by this point, being followed.

On Tuesday, day 7, MFH Harry Worcester Smith’s Grafton hounds took the field again. Smith hunted his hounds himself, as was his custom, and he did it with a broken foot. In fact, both competing Masters were riding with cracked bones: Higginson had broken two ribs early in the match.

Following the English hounds’ high standard the previous day, Smith now had his work cut out for him, as the Boston Herald pointed out.

“When the Grafton pack started this morning it was up to do something to even up yesterday’s splendid performance of the Middlesex hounds,” the paper reported.

Smith’s morning started off badly. Early morning winds, a frostless night, and only a light dew didn’t bode especially well for scenting, and for a while Smith’s American hounds trailed down Goose Creek “and did nothing,” the Herald said. “Up to nine o’clock it looked very much as if the Grafton pack was to draw another blank. This difficult situation persisted for another hour and a half, and the Grafton supporters’ hearts sank. Then suddenly: a fox.

Two hounds discovered Reynard, who bolted up a hill as the rest of the pack harked to the two that found him. He ran about 200 yards ahead of the pack, which appeared, some said, to be running him almost on sight.

“The first part of the day when hounds galloped away without drawing or running a fox was a sorry exhibition, but after the fox was jumped hounds ran remarkably fast,” Movius, a judge, said.

MFH Harry Worcester Smith hunted the Grafton's match pack, six couple of American hounds

The fox carried them across a road, around a two-mile loop, then back across the road. “By this time,” our Herald reporter continued, “the fox had gained enough distance to allow him a minute in which to lay a Chinese cryptogram for the pack on a dry field just north of the pike.”

This resulted in a check, and another judge, Maddux, took matters into his own hands. Movius, summarizing the first part of the run, said, “I was kept out of the first part of the run by the creek, but found hounds at the first check at 10:10, here hounds were helped by Mr. Maddux (having viewed the fox), who, as one of the judges, should not have handled them. From here hounds worked on a cold trail for 50 minutes (about one mile) when the fox was again viewed and hound were put on the hot trail by Mr. Smith.”

That was the last the field saw of them.

In the end, the hounds lost their fox, though, the judges having been distanced, no one could say for certain exactly when or where. McEachran described the straggling end to the day as hounds, recovered by Smith after  a disappearance of an hour and a half, were continuing to try to find their fox.

“When I picked up the pack again there was nothing doing but running stale lines,” McEachran wrote.

The Middlesex returned to battle for day 7 but were quickly hampered by high winds that, in the opinion of the judges, completely undid scent after about 45 minutes. Hounds found their fox 12 minutes into the hunt, and “we had several good bursts, and hounds showed splendid work and manners,” McEachran reported. They pursued the fox to a ruined house, where landowners told Middlesex huntsman Cotesworth that foxes often went to ground.

The Middlesex hounds convinced some skeptics that English hounds are fast enough to account for the speedy American red fox

“Hounds spoke until within fifty yards of the old house,” McEachran wrote. “To-day’s sport I consider first class. All hounds up at finish.”

Even Maddux, the judge originally nominated by Smith and one who earlier in the week had been skeptical that the Middlesex hounds were fast enough to catch a red fox in Virginia, had changed his mind based on their latest performance. “The Middlesex hounds to-day ran their fox brilliantly for twenty minutes, the pace was very hot, quite good enough to enable them to kill,” he wrote in his report. “Up to this time I did not believe English hounds capable of running fast enough to kill in this country. However, I now think if they can keep on going as fast as the first twenty minutes, they have as good a chance to kill as the American pack.”

On day 8, high winds came with the sunrise, and Grafton suffered a calamitous lack of scent.

“The best that Grafton hounds could do after trailing an hour and a half was to furnish a nine-minute burst that filled the field with the hope that in spite of adverse circumstances a kill would be recorded,” the Boston Herald said.

The windy weather wasn’t the only unlucky circumstance to trip up the American hounds, as the Herald reported: “When the American pack had the fox up and going they were crossed by the Orange County Hunt of New York, which is wintering at The Plains, some 14 miles distant from Upperville. Mr. John R. Townsend and Mr. Robert Gerry of New York, who were with the Orange County hounds, called off hounds and coupled them, but after the interruption Mr. Smith’s hounds were unable to find again in that locality.”

The American hounds, like this Walker hound shown with Iroquois Hunt founder Col. Roger D. Williams, had a racy build that served their fantastic speed in pursuit of fox. But early on even their supporters worried that the hounds might be too independent for classic pack work.

Smith was allowed to hunt “from sunrise to sunset” under the rules, and he pretty well did that on day 8 in search of better luck, leading the field across an estimated total of 60 miles. The field included Smith’s old friend Burrell Frank Bywaters, who followed the action–what there was of it–in his buggy on the roads. To add insult to injury, after Smith’s trying afternoon, Bywaters fell in with a local pack of hunters on his way back to his lodgings–and those hunters saw their hounds run a fox to ground.

Smith’s pack finally found a fox at 4:07 p.m. Led by his standout hound Sinner, a Bywater dog, Smith’s American hounds ran for 18 minutes and put the fox to ground.

But it was a lackluster day, as Movius described: “Hounds showed good speed in the last burst. Hounds worked indifferently at times.” Still, a new judge, Hunter Dulany, scored them as working “remarkably well.”

On day 9, the English Middlesex hounds returned to the field in frosty conditions that had put a fragile layer of ice on smaller streams. Scenting nonetheless was judged “fair” to “poor” by the judges, and hounds drew seven coverts without success. But then they went away “giving good music”,” according to a press report, burst into full cry while closely pursuing a fox. The fox went to ground in an open field, and “the pack swarmed around the entrance within a minute,” the report said.

This time, it was Higginson’s pack who got the dreaded review of “worked indifferently at times” from Movius; the failure to find at early coverts had counted against them.

When the Middlesex hounds returned to their kennels approaching sunset, they had run foxes during their outings for a total of four hours and 58 minutes; the Grafton’s American pack had run foxes for six hours and 32 minutes. With only three days left in the match, the judges were facing the very real possibility that neither pack actually would catch a fox to win. If they didn’t, then it would be up to the judges to award the cup (and the $2,000 stake) to the pack showing the greatest ability to manage a kill–even if they hadn’t.

The Middlesex Hunt's English hounds were a heavier type than the American hounds and had substantial bone. Hound match judges were surprised by their speed and good cry.

In the meantime, Middlesex Master Henry Higginson was grounded by a bizarre incident in which a landowner, Amson Payne, had arrested Higginson for trespassing on his land. Payne threatened, in fact, to arrest the entire hunt in an incident that the Piedmont Mastership understandably found embarrassing. But until the issued could be settled, Higginson stayed out of the saddle in order to make his appointment with the local magistrate. Payne, at the hearing, admitted his land hadn’t been damaged when Higginson accidentally crossed it but said he would sue all of the riders behind Higginson in the field, a process that would have tied them up in court for some days, unless the  Middlesex Master agreed to pay him $100. Higginson made a compromise and paid the man $50.

While Higginson was detained at the magistrate’s, Smith was enjoying a run with his hounds. They got up one fox, but soon afterwards two more sprang up, briefly distracting hounds before they followed one toward Leesburg. “All of a sudden, the hounds ceased giving tongue and the field, which had a generous run across country, was left in doubt as to what had happened,” one newspaper reported. “The hounds either lost or denned the fox in this vicinity and an investigation was being made this afternoon.”

Henry Higginson

Smith himself lost his hounds, but the judges generally remained impressed with the pack’s speed and initiative.

The Middlesex hounds’ final day in competition proved a sad and frustrating one. Just minutes after the moved off from the meet, “as the hounds turned off the road into the open field on the way to the covert, a red fox that trotted out of the Bald Hill woods was headed directly towards the hungry-mouthed pack,” the Richmond Transcript reported. “The hounds did not scent or see him at first. Cotesworth saw him before the hounds, and hied on the pack full cry and running on sight from the very first.”

The fox paused for a critical moment, then made a fast dash, but the hounds were already too close.

The hunters, including Higginson, were deeply unhappy with the circumstances of the match’s first kill and strongly suspected that someone had dropped a “bagged” fox in the covert. The hunt continued after this dispiriting start, and Higginson’s English hounds ran another fox to ground. Higginson called for an immediate investigation of the killed fox, and the judges, on taking testimony, unraveled a sad tale. A man named Hall had bought a fox for $4.50 the day before and then, Hall said, the fox had escaped from him in the vicinity of the covert. The kill, regretted by everyone, was disallowed as any evidence of anything other than terrible circumstance.

The Grafton met on the final day, with good scenting in their favor. The pack quickly got up one fox, then another, and split, with two couple running the first and four couple running the second. “I went as fast as I could gallop to Steptoe Hill, when I got there I found the entire pack giving beautiful music. Three foxes broke away in different directions. the pack took up one line, stuck to it. … The run was fast and notwithstanding the cold weather, the hounds held to the line and threw their tongue each.”

Joseph B. Thomas, who became an authority on foxhunting, was among those who was inspired to set up kennels in the Middleburg area after the Great Hound Match of 1905

Movius differed with McEachran in assessing the scent, calling it “poor” to McEachran’s “good,” but he, too, was impressed by the American pack. “Hounds followed line very well considering the unfavorable conditions,” he said.

The match concluded at about 10:15 a.m. when Harry Worcester Smith’s hounds lost their fox.

Does it sound like a draw to you? It does to me. Which is why I was surprised to read the judge’s one-sentence decision: “We award the Match and the stake together with the Townsend Cup to the Grafton Hounds, they, in our opinion, having done the best work with the object of killing the fox in view.”

Harry Worcester Smith took the win as a complete vindication of his view that the American hound was the best animal for hunting the red fox in America. But even the editors of The Rider and Driver, where the whole match challenge had started almost a year earlier, were more tempered in their view: “As may be noted by the account elsewhere the English hounds were no doubt working under some serious handicaps. There was no little native fervor exhibited on behalf of the American hound, at least that seems to be indicated by the fact that on two occasions the American hounds were lifted by judges and laid on the line of scent. These incidents, however, were not permitted to weigh with the judges in reaching their decisions.”

It should be noted that the English hounds faced quite a few obstacles. Higginson did not prepare them as strenuously for the match as Smith did his hounds, for one thing. And, unlike the Grafton pack, the Middlesex hounds had arrived not too long before from England and had no experience of hunting in Virginia, which Smith had afforded his hounds in their time hunting with Bywaters.

Higginson wrote that he was “perfectly satisfied with the work of my hounds,” adding “Messrs. Movius, Maddux and McEachran gave the decision to the Grafton, and it would be most discourteous to them for me to make any statements as to how their decision agreed with anything I may or may not think.”

A reward for a job well done, by all the hounds!

Needless to say, the debate over English versus American hounds continued long after the Great Hound Match of 1905. It still continues, even as fox-catching has given way to fox-chasing as a goal of the hunt, and as development and the coyote’s new predominance as game in many territories have prompted packs to reassess their hound programs.

So what, if anything, did the Great Hound Match of 1905 accomplish? Several things. It raised Virginia’s profile as the nation’s most fashionable place to hunt and helped the sport to grow here; among the people drawn to the Middleburg area by the hound match was Joseph B. Thomas, who built a state-of-the-art kennel at Huntland here and went on to write the wonderful book Hounds and Hunting through the Ages.

More importantly, from working foxhounds’ point of view, the match showcased the talents of both types. The match proved that English hounds could, in fact, provide brilliant sport and beautiful music, and that they were fast enough to press and catch foxes in America as they had for centuries in English grasslands and woodlands. The match also proved that American hounds’ independence could be managed through thoughtful training and that their sizzling speed, even though it outpaced a field of followers, was indeed more than enough to account for American red foxes. In short, the match proved the worthy qualities of both hounds.

Today, the emphasis on catching red foxes has faded in America. Unlike in England, where sheep farming is still common, foxes are rarely a problem to farmers here. But hound lovers and foxhunters undoubtedly will continue to argue, as they always have, the merits of one kind of hound against another for providing good sport.