Beagles, bassets, and dozens of running bunnies (with two videos!)

Clear Creek Beagles huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman with the hounds

IT WAS a sight for sore eyes and a song for sore ears (to make up a new metaphor). We’ve spent so much of this winter indoors due to the unusually bad weather, only getting out occasionally with the foxhounds. So when the end of February rolled around with the annual beagling weekend on the calendar, the houndbloggers hared over to Mercer County to watch beagles and bassets at work.

The Farmington Beagles usually attend this weekend-long festival of rabbit-chasing, but they didn’t cross the mountains this year. That left the hosting Clear Creek Beagles and the visiting Sandanona Harehounds from upstate New York, who cleared out of the Empire State just before another blizzard dumped a foot of snow along the east coast. The Sandanona Harehounds actually refers to two working packs that Betsy Park hunts, one a beagle pack and the other a basset pack.

You might not be familiar with working basset packs. Like beagles, they hunt cottontail and/or hare, and the field members follow on foot. But they’re longer and lower hounds, of course, and their voices differ, too: they have deeper, booming cry, which you will hear on the video below and can compare to the beagles’ cry in their video below. They are hugely, longly, floppy-earedly entertaining–and they are fine hunters, too.

The area where we met is winding down its cattle operation and has spent much of the last year restoring natural grasses. And what a difference that has made to the cottontail population! We hunt this vast acreage at least once a year, and in recent years the number of good runs had dwindled–except, notably, in the initial natural grass patch that started the reseeding project, where we always seemed guaranteed to meet up with a sporting rabbit. Last year’s lush summer probably also didn’t hurt our chances at finding more rabbits this season, but I think I’m a big, big fan of natural grasses as a positive reinforcement for game.

In one field alone, which we refer to here as The Bunny Patch, the houndbloggers saw 10 rabbits on Saturday afternoon with the bassets; other members of the field saw considerably more than that throughout the day.

Two of the Sandanona bassets with huntsman and Master Betsy Park at The Bunny Patch

One of the Sandanona bassets harks to the horn

If you’re expecting the really low-slung bassets of the Hush Puppies and Westminster type, the Sandanona bassets and other hunting bassets will probably surprise you. These guys are leggier, and their speed and agility surprise people hunting behind them for the first time. They excel at being cute, as all bassets do, and in their extraordinary deep and melodious cry–which we heard to great effect as the pack raced along in full cry around a pond, where their voices echoed off the ridge and water as if it were coming to you from centuries ago.

The multitude of rabbits provided a real challenge to the huntsmen this weekend. As Betsy Park put it, “There are too many rabbits. It encourages independence, which is not good.” And, in fact, there were so many rabbits whizzing around The Bunny Patch that on several occasions hounds could hunt by sight rather than scent, and from time to time the temptation would prove too much when random bunnies, simply getting out of the way of the pack as it hunted one rabbit’s line, crossed paths close by.

Both the beagles and the bassets had a phenomenal weekend with these game little rabbits, who kept them running all day. We expect both packs had a lot to talk about over their biscuits as they made their way back to Louisville (beagles) and New York (bassets).

Nate Lord, the best man to follow when out with foot packs. It's him you'll hear on the basset video, asking the field to keep out of hounds' way.

Without further ado, we’ll cut to the chase. Bassets are up first from Saturday’s hunting, and beagles are up second from their Sunday morning meet. The basset video has two tally-hos of rabbits at The Bunny Patch, and both videos show the respective packs in full cry. In the beagle video, you might recognize a couple of names from previous posts we’ve had. Eider, the first-season puppy, makes an appearance early in the video, and Sancerre (she who can catch biscuits while swimming) also gets called down for, not surprisingly, being a little wayward for a split second!

Puppy’s Life: Leashes 101 (with two videos!)

Houndbloggers, kennel staff, and hunt members helped with the puppies' first day of leash training. Sorting out leashes, volunteer walkers, and wiggling, puzzled puppies is harder than it looks!

HOUNDS aren’t born walking on leashes, after all. On the two-legged team were huntsman Lilla Mason, joint-Master Jerry Miller, kennel staff Michael Edwards and Alan Foy, and a phalanx of volunteers: Nancy Clinkinbeard, Christine and Gene Baker, Robin Cerridwen, and the houndbloggers.

The four-legged team were Dragonfly’s son Driver and “the BAs,” Baffle’s puppies who all have names beginning with BA, following the custom that puppies are named using the first letters of their mother’s name.

Before the leash-training exercise started, there was some introductory biscuit-throwing. There’s a style to it. If you’re preparing hounds for a show, you need to know how to make a nice long, low throw that gets the hound to gallop lightly over to the biscuit–while showing off their way of going to the judges. This is all new to the puppies, who have to learn this new game. It’s more than a game, Lilla explained, because this kind of training also exposes the young hounds to new people and teaches them to keep their focus on the huntsman without getting distracted by the other things around them at a show: spectators, spectators’ ham sandwiches, squalling children, other hounds in the ring, and other huntsmen’s biscuits. Not to mention the stands just outside the ring that sell custom stock ties and hunting-related doodads, which I personally find hugely distracting at hound shows!

Paper, who was entered in the hunting pack this year, was very happy to demonstrate how good he is at chasing biscuits. And bouncing around–isn’t he beautifully light on his feet?

Our “Playper” has learned a lot this season and has grown into a truly handsome young man, hasn’t he? To remind yourself of his adventures in his first season with the pack, read about (and see some video) his days on summer houndwalk hereherehere, and here. Check out his performance on the hunt field, also including some video, this year here and here.

But the real task of the day was to introduce the puppies to leashes. If you’ve ever taken a child for a first haircut or applied the first pair of “hard” shoes to a skeptical baby, you’ll understand that putting collars and leashes on young hounds that have never known them before isn’t always straightforward. Hounds might not object, but they might. They might not worry, but they might. A few did. One bolted right back into the kennel, leash trailing behind. “Can you outrun it?” Michael said as the puppy, one of the BAs, made her dash, seemingly pretty convinced she could. She soon returned to the group with the understanding that this snaky-looking leather thing was not, in fact, a snake, and was not going to hurt her.

Bagshot wrapped himself around a houndblogger and suggested that a biscuit might make him feel better about this whole leash thing ...

... and got a biscuit. Well, what would YOU have done?

The few puppies who worried about their new leashes were teaching us, too. The lesson was about patience and kindness, perhaps the most critical elements in handling young hounds. Confidence-inspiring pats helped (especially when reinforced by biscuits!).

Biscuit-chasing and leash training are important early steps in a puppy’s life for the upcoming spring and summer hound shows. And, like those shows, these early sessions galloping after biscuits and learning to walk politely on a leash also teach some critical skills that will be important on the hunt field. How to focus on a single person in the midst of distractions. How to be confident in the face of new situations. How to adjust. How to work one-on-one with a person.

For the record, Driver was a star at walking on his leash!

To see more of the puppy-walk, including Lilla’s explanation of the training philosophy and her comments on what she and the hounds learned from the session, check out the five-minute “documentary” below.

And just as a reminder (not that I even need an excuse to post cute puppy pictures!), here’s what those BAs and Driver looked like last spring:

Baffle's litter in April 2009.

Driver as a tiny (well, okay, not THAT tiny) pup.

Have a great weekend, everyone! The houndbloggers will be beagling and basseting–yes, basseting!–this weekend and hope to post some video from that over the weekend!

Banknote and Driver

WE thought we’d catch you up with two of the puppies. Banknote is a daughter of Baffle, and Driver is the pupposaurus that Dragonfly had. Both were born last spring. Turn your sound on for the best effect.

This video is from a kennel open day on Feb. 2o, when guests came to help the hunt and kennel staff with some biscuit-throwing and leash-training. More on that later!

In Memoriam: Savvy

On Feb. 4, Savvy had the kind of hunt day hounds must dream about. It was to be her last: she developed a twisted intestine about a week later and died after surgery.

EVERYONE has been saying it: thank heavens Savvy had such a good day out.

Our hunt season has been mostly ruined this season by the unusually bad weather, but on February 4 huntsman Lilla Mason and the joint-Masters spotted a chance between two foul weather systems. They went for it, aided by one of the Iroquois hunt country’s generous landowners. It was a chance worth taking: the hounds wanted out, there was another snowstorm looming on the horizon, and did I mention the hounds wanted out? It wasn’t a regularly scheduled hunt day, but who cares? We’re living in uncertain times, meteorologically speaking. Carpe passable weather!

What passed for good weather on February 4 was damp with a bone-chilling breeze, and a few brave souls convened to follow hounds on horseback. But the hounds had their hunt, and what a hunt it was. For Savvy, it was the hunt of a lifetime.

“It was absolutely marginal weather,” Lilla said. “The footing was horrible. The temperature was pretty warm, but the ground was semi-frozen, sort of melted on top and greasy underneath.

Whipper-in Blaine Holloway at the meet. The day was damp with a chilly wind, and the footing ranged from ice to greasy mud.

“The only reason we were able to go is that the people on Foxtrot Farm allowed us to park our trailers along their farm road, because they weren’t going to be doing much work on that part of the farm that day. You could never have pulled a trailer into a field, it was just incredibly wet. But the hounds really needed to go out.”

It seemed highly likely there would be some coyotes afoot, based on the farm’s own reports.

“The farm had asked us to draw the hounds through their cows, because the cows were calving and they’d seen some coyotes among their cattle,” Lilla explained. “They told us that any time we draw through their cattle the coyotes seem to stay away for a few days. The smell of the hounds lingers, and they get spooked off.”

To give everyone the best chance at a good day out before the next round of bad weather moved in, Lilla brought out 12 couples of hounds, including, of course Savvy.

“Savvy was one of our leading hounds, and Jerry (joint-Master Jerry Miller) said if she hadn’t died we would have bred her,” Lilla said. That’s a strong testament for a hunt that only breeds one litter each year.

Savvy on summer houndwalk. She led a group of hounds on a seven-hour chase on Feb. 4.

“She was that good,” Lilla said. “She had some of our best bloodlines, and she was everything that works for us. Every once in a while on a hunt she’d be the last one in because she would not stop, but she was never doing anything wrong. She just had this unbelievable nose and drive, and she would follow that nose no matter what.”

Lilla’s plan was to start at the Cabin Covert, draw hounds thoroughly from east to west through the calving herd, then head south to Murphy’s Covert and draw heading north. That would put the hounds heading away from a potentially dangerous two-lane road that cuts across the southern end of the hunt country.

“We were hoping not to get a coyote up that went south across that road, because we knew it was going to be hard to keep up with the hounds on horses,” Lilla said. “If we could get one up that would stay north of that road, that would be good.”

At their first stop, the Cabin Covert, Savvy and her 23 packmates picked up traces of coyote scent. “They were feathering a little bit,” Lilla said, referring to the quick side-to-side tail motion hounds make when puzzling out a scent. But they didn’t strike off. Lilla led them on to the cattle, weaving the hounds in and out among the herd.

Savvy enjoyed kennel visitors as much as they enjoyed meeting her.

“After we’d been through all the cattle, I looked up to my left, and there was Savvy, all of a sudden going perpendicular to my intended path,” Lilla said. “She was heading straight east. I knew better than to try to do anything about it. I wouldn’t call Savvy independent, but she would sometimes disagree with me when she knew she was right about something. Being the old wise girl she was, I knew she was winding something, and it would be counterproductive to send a whip over there to turn her around.”

One or two hounds, then four, then the rest of the pack drifted in Savvy’s direction, too. Then they started feathering. The hounds picked up their pace, heading up a hill. Lilla and the field trotted after them, but it was a treacherous climb, with ice patches and slippery mud. Led by Savvy’s nose, the hounds disappeared over the crest of the hill. By the time the riders got there, they were a field ahead–and then they opened up in full cry.

They ran north, then looped south. The field, struggling over the ground and forced to go through gates rather than risk jumping on the slick mud, struggled to keep in touch with them. When Lilla spotted a few tail hounds, she stopped atop Pauline’s Ridge to collect them. Blowing her horn there, she gathered up about seven couple–who promptly rejoined the hunt when the rest of the pack opened up in full cry again in the ridge.

“They really fired off then,” Lilla said of the pack.

The pack screamed along Pauline’s Ridge, dropped down to the creek bank at the ridge’s bottom, and then took off in a ruler-straight line heading north into the open grassland near the northern extremity of the country.

“That north country is completely open: no coverts, a few vegetation fencelines, and that’s it,” Lilla said. That big patch of the country is so open and grassy it’s called Little Kansas, and you can get some idea of its expanse from this “helmet cam” video Lilla took there several years ago:

“When a coyote starts running through Little Kansas, you better kick on, because they’ll be flat out,” Lilla explained. “Out in the open like that, that coyote is just going to run fast, and so will the hounds. Sure enough, they got way ahead of us.”

Lilla and the field could hear the hounds ahead of them in the distance, but there was little they could do to catch up to them. Hillsides facing north proved especially icy, but even where the ground was relatively good, horses couldn’t safely go faster than a trot.

Then Lilla spotted a farmer repairing a fence.

“I stopped and said, ‘Hello, have you seen any hounds?'” she said. “He said, ‘Yeah! I saw big coyote go by, and there was this one white hound right on its tail, and the rest of the hounds came about a minute later. But that one hound was right on its tail!’

“Now, I don’t know because I wasn’t there,” Lilla said. “But I would bet you that was Savvy.”

That was a thrilling bit of news, but the immediate concern was more pressing: if they kept heading north, as seemed likely, the coyote and hounds would cross another busy two-lane road and would then be at the northern extremity of the hunt country–and close to a large cattle operation in the corner of the country that has asked the hunt not to bring horses through during calving season. Lilla had sent road whips Michael and Alan onto the two-lane in question, Todd’s Road. But three couple got past them and blazed across the road, and Savvy was one of them.

“We had started hunting at 1, and it was about 3:30 when I stopped with the nine couple I had,” Lilla recalled. “It was about 4 when that three couple crossed, including Savvy. The nine couple I stopped were pretty tired and winded, and I didn’t have much choice but to take them in, especially after it became apparent that the three couple on the other side of the road were going to keep on hunting. All the road whips were up there. If I’d taken my nine couple closer to those three couple, they’d have heard the three and gone to them, and we couldn’t get into that cattle operation with horses to protect all those hounds’ safety. So it seemed more prudent to take the nine couple in.

“The three couple all had tracking collars on, and it seemed that Michael and Alan (kennel staff Michael Edwards and Alan Foy) would catch up to them pretty soon. I definitely didn’t want to try to entice those three couple back across a road, especially as it was getting on to rush hour.”

One of the houndbloggers keeps an eye out for hounds from his post near Todd's Road

Lilla took her group in, and Michael and Alan closed in on Savvy and her gang, expecting them to be tired and ready to leave off their coyote trail in due course.

But Savvy and her pals had other plans. And they were long-term plans. Those hounds streaked up and down that part of the country, encouraged by the fact that that land is rich in coyotes. Sitting on a gate to help protect the crossing at Todd’s Road, at various times the houndbloggers themselves saw three coyotes racing through the field to the north of the road. We spotted Savvy and the other hounds, too, racing along the trail, far away from us and obviously having the time of their lives.

Driving along the roads in his hound truck, Michael kept his window rolled down so he could stop and quickly whip out his radio tracking device; both he and Alan carry these so that they can “beep” the hounds’ location by their tracking collars. Whenever he stopped, Michael could still hear the hounds singing, and he caught the deeper note of Savvy in the chorus.

After he rode back to the meet, Jerry, too, sped out in an all-terrain vehicle to help us catch these hounds as they criss-crossed the fenced farmland. But this little corps of nine hounds hadn’t been out hunting in a while. I don’t know whether they knew more foul weather was on the way, but they had no intention of coming in until they were good and ready. They hunted until about 8 p.m., seven hours after they had started.

Savvy was among the winners at the Virginia Hound Show in 2009. Photo by Jim Meads.

“Every time anybody saw them, they had their noses down and were in full cry, doing exactly what they’re supposed to do,” Lilla said. “And that was Savvy. That was what she was like her whole life. Once she got her nose down and she was hot on something, you might as well pull up a chair, put your feet up, and just wait, because that was it. And that’s what you want in a hound.”

Michael, Alan, and Jerry were gradually able to start picking up individual hounds, but the last three to come in that night were Savvy, Grindstone, and Parish.

When Michael and Alan finally laid hands on them behind the Sisters’, Savvy and Co. looked tired but deeply content with their day.

It was a day to remember, both for them and for us. In light of the sad event the following week, that hunt day is a happy memory indeed. Savvy developed a twisted intestine and was rushed to the vet clinic. They performed surgery, but Savvy did not recover. She was 7. She is sorely missed, not just for her own talents, nose, and perseverance, but also for what she undoubtedly would have given the pack through her puppies. And she just had that way about her.

“She wasn’t only one of our best hounds, she also had a lot of personality,” Lilla said. “She had kind of a funny face, because she was really woolly, and she had these intelligent eyes in all this silly hair.”

“She had this way of looking up at you with a kind of smile with squinty eyes,” Michael said. “She loved people, loved life, loved being a hound. If you wanted to breed a hound, she’s what you’d hope to get, one with the personality and heart to run six or seven hours, speaking the whole time. She was incredible.”

No hunting? At least we have the Olympics

Even Shaun White's second gold in the men's halfpipe failed to get a rise out of the house hounds. And, yes, we'll be changing out the wallpaper below that chair rail this spring!

IT’S NICE to know that some people are making good use of the snow and ice these days.

We foxhunters have been sitting around twiddling our thumbs and cleaning and re-cleaning our tack (okay, okay–but we should be cleaning our tack) while waiting out the big winter of our discontent. We got word this week that the hunt season in Virginia, where they’ve been under yards of snow since human memory, essentially has been abandoned. Pretty much everywhere (San Diego and the Sahara probably are exempt), the bleak equation looks like this: too much snow = too much water = too much damage in the country. Too much ice = too much risk of injury to horses and riders. And so it goes. But in Vancouver, totally different story. Have you seen what those people do in this weather? Amazing. All without borium.

With no hunting possible here, we and the house hounds have been watching the Olympics every night. The other resident houndblogger is partial to snowboarding, and my tastes generally run to downhill skiing, snowboard cross, and anything where you get to ring a cowbell, so that means luge and skeleton, too. My personal favorite competitor, though, is men’s figure skater Johnny Weir. We both like Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (I know. I can’t explain it). And for reasons that are clear to anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with my hunt horse Sassoon, Johnny Weir reminds me of him. Camp. Good jumper. Long black forelock. Very, very witty.

UPDATE, MAY 2010: Okay, I figured that video might get pulled at some stage, even though it actually was not from Olympic competition. Sadly, I can’t find another video of Our Johnny’s “Poker Face” routine, so here’s a nice clip previewing his TV show on the Sundance Channel. It would be better with hounds in it, but you can’t have everything.

Interestingly, it turns out that Weir started off as an equestrian. He had a dapple gray Shetland-Arabian cross, and let me just say right now that I don’t care whether Weir has a penchant for pink tassels, anyone that can deal with a Shetland-Arabian cross has got some guts.

Weir showed hunt seat until he was about age 10, if I’m reading an accurate bio, and then his parents laid it out: they could afford either figure-skating or showing, but not both. So he chose figure-skating, although to his credit it was apparently a tough decision. Reluctantly, he said goodbye to his pony, named My Blue Shadow. I can kind of see why he made the choice he did. You get to wear more sequins in figure-skating, and, from the available evidence, it looks like sequins are a priority for our Johnny.

Johnny Weir didn't impress Mr. Box

Mr. Box didn't share my enthusiasm for equestrian/figure-skater/fashion designer/Lord Gaga Johnny Weir. But I ask you: who else could look that stylish with a crown of roses around his head?

For the record, he finished sixth in the men’s figure skating on Thursday night after an excellent performance that should have, in fairness, notched a diamond tiara or something instead of a “hey, thanks for showing up.”

The former equestrian has plans to become a fashion designer. I wonder what his take on the hunt coat would look like? I smell pink feathers and Swarovski crystals!

So until the weather improves, we’ll be watching the Olympics. If nothing else, it’s an object lesson as to why horses and ice don’t really mix. But we’ll also be visiting the kennel, profiling the artists who have kindly donated works for the upcoming Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction, and keeping close tabs on the possible Will Goodall horn! Needless to say, we miss the hunt field as much as you do.

The $11,000 dog collar

Another famous dog collar: the prize for Madison County foxhound speed trial in 1866 was silver and came with its own tiny padlock. The leather-lined collar was awarded to "the Fastest Foxhound in the State." A foxhound named Rock won it.

NO, NOT this one–but this was the only photo I had! You can see the $11,000 dog collar, which belonged to Charles Dickens, here, at the Bonhams auction house online catalog for the sale that produced this eye-popping item. Bonhams sold the leather collar with a brass nameplate on Feb. 16 at The Dog Sale, held in New York to coincide with the Westminster show.

The collar is large, 23 inches around, and the leather is 1.5 inches wide. Its plate reads “C. Dickens, Esq. Gad’s Hill Place, Higham.”

Thanks to our friends over at the Pet Connection Blog for alerting us to this! If you haven’t checked Pet Connection out yet, do. It’s an interesting forum that brings together animal lovers of all stripes, fur, tail lengths, and feathers. Opinions vary in its comment section, but the discussion is always civil. Whether you’re interested in general pet care, animal rescue issues, or general veterinary tips, you’ll find it there. Most importantly: it’s hands down the best place to find out the latest on pet food and veterinary medicine recalls. Check. it. out. And be an informed pet owner.

Is this the great Will Goodall’s horn?

James Davies and his wife Denise bought the horn, which is engraved "Will Goodall, Belvoir Kennels," for just a few dollars at an auction in Zimbabwe

DENISE Davies spotted it first at the auction preview.  She held it up and showed it to her husband.

“Do you know what this is?” she  said.

Her husband James said he had no idea.

“It’s a foxhunting horn.”

It might not be just any foxhunting horn, as the couple learned last week. The nine-inch copper horn might have belonged to one of the great huntsmen of all time: Will Goodall, who hunted the Belvoir hounds in England from 1842 until his death after a riding accident in 1859.

We’ve written about Goodall before. He was the inspiration for Lord Henry Bentinck’s famous treatise on hunting, Goodall’s Practice, and he came from a famous family of huntsmen that started with his grandfather Stephen, who was as well known for his girth as for his ability with hounds; he was said to have tipped the scales at 280 pounds, and one account describes him as “the heaviest professional huntsman who ever sat on a horse.” His grandson Will really brought the Goodall name to prominence at Belvoir, rising from whipper-in to huntsman in 1842. During his time at the Belvoir, Goodall brought in the celebrated hound Rallywood, and together they gave the Belvoir pack a golden era of hunting.

T. F. Dale, writing The History of the Belvoir Hunt in 1899, put it this way: “With Lord Forester and William Goodall, who brought, the one enthusiasm and the other genius, to bear on the fortunes of the hunt, the Belvoir touched the highest point of excellence the pack has ever known. This was undoubtedly the golden age of the Belvoir country.”

Goodall's name is on the bell of the horn.

Dale did not, of course, have the benefit of foresight to know the future of the hunt, but through Dale’s time at least, Goodall had set the standard.

James and Denise Davies didn’t know any of this when they decided to bid on the copper horn at a local auction near their home in Zimbabwe. The couple have a restaurant in the African nation and also have been collecting antiques for about six years.

“Nobody bid on it, so we got it for next to nothing,” said James, whose usual auction picks are more in the line of figurines and military memorabilia. “We were the only bidders.”

When the Davieses came to England to convert a Victorian house they own into two apartments, they decided to offer some of their finds for sale–partly, James said, because they only have slow dial-up internet access in Zimbabwe, making eBay listings too much of a hassle.

“We thought we’d take a few of the smaller items over to see if there was anything anyone was interested in,” James said. “We brought over a few silver items, and my wife put them on eBay. She also put the horn on eBay. The silverware just sat and sat at 99p and nobody bid on it. But the horn got a hell of a lot of response, and the price just started going up on the horn. Denise said, ‘This is very odd, because everything else is sitting dormant, but this horn …’ And we got a couple of questions from people who were bidding, asking us for more photographs of the inscription so they could read  what it said, that sort of thing. That’s when Denise said, ‘Let’s do a bit of research on it.'”

The Davieses ended the bidding, which had reached 50 pounds, apologizing to bidders that the auction had been canceled while they tried to assess exactly what they had.

Belvoir Hunt Button

Here’s where the hound blog came in. On Feb. 10, James wrote a short comment on our post describing Lord Henry Bentinck’s Goodall’s Practice. The comment was brief, but its content got our attention: “I have an old hunting horn inscribed ‘Will Goodall Belvoir Kennels’ and ‘Schott & Co 159 Regent Street London,'” James wrote. “Do you know if this is valuable?”

Short answer: yes. The houndbloggers aren’t in a position to do a formal appraisal, but if this horn really is Will Goodall’s, it’s priceless as a historic artifact from foxhunting and one of England’s great packs.

Will Goodall began his career as a groom and second horseman for the then Master of the Bicester, Thomas Tyrwhitt Drake senior, for whom young Will’s father was stud groom. Curiously, foreshadowing the accident that contributed to his death many years later, as a boy he narrowly escaped serious injury in this first job when a mare named Florence  dragged him across a stable yard while he was working with her. He survived and became admired almost as much for his horsemanship as for his hound sense.

In 1835,  Drake promoted Goodall to second whip under Bicester huntsman Tom Wingfield, whose own work history began when he hired on with the great Hugo Meynell at age 10, then hunted hounds for another legend, Quorn Master Thomas Assheton Smith.

Modern horns made by Keat. One expert has told us that the unusual nickel band around the bell of the Davieses' horn is sometimes seen in horns dating to Will Goodall's era.

While under Wingfield, Goodall “was noted for his bold riding, his high spirits, and his sense of humor,” according to The History of the Belvoir. Goodall also apparently idolized Heythrop huntsman Jem Hills, who was hunting that pack while Goodall was with the Bicester, and wanted to work under him, though he never did. “Perhaps it was as well that this dream was never fulfilled,” Dale opined, “for the brilliant style of that famous huntsman was not suited for imitation, and least of all by a young beginner in the art.”

By 1837, his reputation as a horseman and his talent with hounds had gained him enough notice that the Belvoir hired him as second whip to huntsman Thomas Goosey. That began his long association with the Duke of Rutland’s pack that was to make his name and add even more glory to the already celebrated pack. Goosey retired in 1842, and Goodall–though still a second whip–was promoted over the hunt’s first whip, Tom Flint.

Goodall set about preserving the Belvoir pack’s quality, while adding bone, and he brought a highly influential hound into the pack when he got Rallywood, or Yarborough Rallywood, from the Brocklesby. To quote The History of the Belvoir again, “the influence he has had on the Belvoir kennel and through the Duke of Rutland’s pack on nearly every kennel in England is incalculable. There are very few first-rate packs of hounds which have not some of Rallywood’s descendants in them through his famous son, the Belvoir Rallywood. If in any pack the observant man notes a hard-working hound probably of a rich black, tan, and white, with a fine voice, and if further he sees the same hound trotting back to kennel at night with his stern up after a long day, it will be a fair guess to put him down as belonging to the first foxhound family in the world.”

Goodall came by Rallywood in an interesting way. The Brocklesby huntsman was eager to acquire one of the Belvoir hounds, Grappler, and offered Goodall anything in his kennel in exchange for that hound. The huntsman, Will Smith, died before the exchange could be formalized, and Grappler never made it to Brocklesby. But Goodall picked up the conversation again with Smith’s son when he took over his late father’s position. By that time Rallywood already had sired about 28 hounds for Brocklesby, and Smith took Belvoir Trouncer in trade.

Rallywood arrived at the Belvoir and went on to great fame there. At the end of his life, he was buried in the middle of Goodall’s flower garden at the kennels and, as of 1899, a red currant tree sat atop his remains.

Goodall himself was an interesting character, by all accounts. He is universally described as “kind,” something that Lord Bentinck also notes in his very detailed description of Goodall’s exceptional way with his hounds. In addition to his life’s work with hounds, Goodall also kept bees and “had a great love of his beautiful little home at Belvoir” and of the 11 children he had with his wife Frances, including the celebrated future Pytchley huntsman, Will Goodall the younger. Their future was of constant concern, apparently, and he once confided that he was so anxious for their wellbeing that he could “sweat in an ice house.”

Lord Henry Bentinck wrote glowingly of Goodall's talent with hounds.

The sporting author The Druid, reminiscing about Goodall after the great huntsman’s death, presented a collection of lovely anecdotes, including one in which Goodall intended to go to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Along his way from Belvoir to London’s Crystal Palace, Goodall understandably thought it might be interesting to stop and see some hounds. In the end, he visited 16 packs and never even got to the Exhibition at all.

“His phraseology was very unique and expressive,” wrote The Druid, “and ‘screamed over the fallows,’ ‘raced unto him and eat him,’ ‘a blazing hour,’ ‘blew him up in the open,’ etc., were great expressions with him, and very characteristic of the ceaseless energy of the man.”

When Goodall suffered his fatal injuries while trying out a horse, there was much speculation that his horn might have played a role. Dale, who knew Goodall, described the days following the accident, when Goodall was, it was hoped, recovering in his bed:

“He had a habit of carrying his horn in his breast to get easier at it, and whether he injured himself or not by falling on it could never be ascertained. They took it to his bedside some days before he died, and he showed them exactly how he fell, and half sitting up in bed took it with all the animation of health, as if it revived him to lay hold of it again.”

Will Goodall died near daybreak on a May morning in 1859.

Here is another wonderful note from The History of the Belvoir Hunt about his funeral: “… and as the hearse moved off, the hounds set up that sort of deep wailing sound, not singing and not chiming, which quite went through the followers and the crowd who stood at the distance to see the last of their old friend, and seemed, even to the whips, like a sound they had never heard before.”

According to the History, Goodall was buried in the same cemetery as his Belvoir predecessor Goosey, about a mile from the kennel location at the time, at Knipton, “and just under Granby Wood, the end of that unbroken woodland chain which he has made ring again so often in cub-hunting time.”

Neither James nor Denise has foxhunted (although Denise’s father regularly hunted wild pig and buck in Africa, as her brothers still do), and so the important history of this horn, if it is indeed Goodall’s, has taken them by surprise–as has their growing interest in a field sport they’d never previously thought much about. James says he intends to sell the horn if it proves authentic, but he confesses he is tempted to keep it himself.

At the moment, James is waiting for any records that Schott, the musical instruments maker whose name is on the horn’s bell, might be able to provide by way of authenticating it. One thing we do know is that Schott was indeed located at 159 Regent Street, the address on the horn, at the time Goodall was hunting the Belvoir hounds.

“I want to find out a little bit more about it, because it’s such an interesting story,” James explained, “and I don’t want to just get rid of it for a couple of hundred quid. I want to know more about Will Goodall and his history now.”