As promised: Royal Artillery hounds video

THE video is from our visit to the Royal Artillery Hunt’s March 24, 2010, meet in England. In addition to seeing the hounds that belong to Great Britain’s last remaining military-affiliated foxhound pack, we also enjoyed a very tasty stirrup cup that included sausages, cake, and port. And, though I didn’t see any, there probably was also some whisky mac in attendance. Foul, but traditional.

We described the meet a little in a previous post, but I’ll add a few more words on the pack, because its history is interesting. The pack was organized in 1907 when a Mr. Arthur Ernest Hussey gave his harriers to the Royal Artillery officers stationed in Bulford, and the pack was first known as the RA (Bulford) Harriers. At least as early as 1903, the artillery officers had been known  to hunt with Hussey’s pack from his Netheravon kennels and environs. During World War I, the pack was largely destroyed as the artillery went to war and wartime privations made keeping the pack impossible. Hussey himself had joined up as a Lieutenant in the Wiltshire Regiment. He never was posted to France, and for a time he took over the Mastership of the RA (Bulford) Harriers as well as of the nearby Courtenay Tracey  Otterhounds (now defunct). But in her excellent book about the hunt’s history, Hounds, Hares and Foxes of Larkhill, author and longtime RA Hunt member Estelle Holloway provides this sad description of the events of 1917:

“In 1917 England was starving due to the menace of German U-boats, and lack of food forced Captain A. E. Hussey to put down his beloved pack of RA (Bulford) Harriers.”

But after the Armistice in 1919 the Isle of Wight harriers went to the RA on loan for a single season so that the artillery could start up hunting again. A year later, the artillery purchased the Instow pack of the West Country Harriers, mostly old hounds that had survived wartime and many with pedigrees that the Hunt Record noted politely as “unobtainable,” for 300 pounds.

Brigadier J. H. Gibbon DSO (left) was the first Master to hold the position when the pack switched to foxhounds.

According to a history of the RA pack, “it was originally laid down that each brigade at Bulford and Larkhill should provide at least one whipper-in, and opening meets were always celebrated at Bulford Mess.”

Hunting legend Ikey Bell, the master of the nearby South and West Wilts pack, was impressed with the RA hounds of the era. Of them he wrote:

The only occasion on which I began to feel anxious for my pack’s laurels was when Major Scott-Watson brought down a couple of his little hounds from Bulford Camp. This couple was of Quarme Harrier blood, and all day they held their place in front, and once when the pack were checked by sheep, carried on the line. No-one was more delighted than their gallant Master when I cheered his little couple with a “Forward to Bulford! Yooi!” and later on handed him the mask of a good fox, which his little treasures had played a full part in bringing to book.

When World War II broke out in 1939, most of the harrier pack was destroyed again as the hunt staff and members went to war in Europe. The Hunt Record notes that seven couples were saved. But feeding them proved difficult, because only foxhounds, considered important for keeping down foxes that killed sheep, were classified as “pest control” and therefore could receive rations.

The Royal Artillery foxhounds today.

A general, Gen. John Frost, heard that the small Quarme Pack in Exmoor–which had contributed some fine blood to the RA harriers Bell had so admired 20 years earlier–also was about to be destroyed because they could not be fed adequately during wartime. He intervened, bringing the pack to Bulford and kenneling them there with some of the RA Harriers’ remainders. With these, he got in some hare-hunting on the Plain despite the war.

Eventually, the pack was added to five couples of foxhounds from four other dwindling packs, and the cavalry at Tidworth took over the lot.

The war did not, in any case, prevent some soldiers from trying to hunt while in their units. As Holloway writes, “Major Selby-Lowndes took a pack of beagles to France with the British Expeditionary Force, while Freddie Edmeades was somewhat unlucky. He included a couple of harriers in his baggage and was forced to spend an uncomfortable night in a French gendarmerie accused of poaching!”

After the war, the pack gradually regrew and transitioned to foxhounds. It was recognized by the Master of Fox Hounds Association in the fall of 1946.

The Royal Artillery hounds with professional huntsman Rob Moffat on March 24.

The kennels are still located at Bulford Camp, where they were built in 1934, and in a day out with the Royal Artillery you are sure to meet many military men and women.

To learn more about the hunt and to see some marvelous pictures of their hunt country in the Salisbury Plain military training area, we heartily recommend the hunt supporters’ club website. Photo galleries of the hunt can be found here. The slideshow of the Packway meet, located here, also features some very nice photos of riders in military dress for the hunt, giving you some sense of the hunt’s style and panache.

A postscript about Ikey Bell

I recently came across a quote attributed to Bell on behalf of working dogs everywhere. Considering the purpose of the Hound Welfare Fund that is linked so closely with this blog, I thought I’d share it. It describes the houndbloggers’ view very well.

Cherish us for our courage

Instead of our looks;

Look on as more as comrades,

And less as picture books.

Houndbloggers Abroad: A Royal Artillery meet

The Royal Artillery hounds with professional huntsman Rob Moffat at the March 24 meet.

ANY trip that starts off with hounds has to be good! Not long after we landed in England, we attended a meet of the Royal Artillery Hunt, Britain’s last surviving military foxhound pack.

The Royal Artillery Hunt is unusual in many ways, most notably for its hunt country. Most people, when thinking about English foxhunting, conjure up images of the rolling grasslands and terrifying five-foot hedges that Leicestershire’s fashionable hunts face on their fast runs. But the Royal Artillery hunts (within the law as decreed since the hunt ban of 2005, so they now drag hunt) across Salisbury Plain (for one photo, see here, though this doesn’t do full justice to the plain’s amazing sweep and great beauty). That presents an altogether different set of challenges for horse and rider.

Salisbury Plain appears, from a distance, innocently simple to cross. It is vast and, though a plain, it has quite a few gentle rises that just beg you to gallop up them. (Its most famous feature, incidentally, is Stonehenge, which once was a regular meet for the RA hounds!) The plain’s openness makes it a great place to watch hounds, and the hunt country’s description at the Master of Fox Hounds Association website makes it sound uncomplicated enough: “There is very little jumping: there are always ways round any fences. It is a good country for seeing hounds work, with few of the problems generally encountered in modern hunting. Sport is varied; there are some good long runs of up to ten miles unimpeded by roads, railways, wire or urban sprawl. Any horse, young or old, would enjoy a day on Salisbury Plain. The RA Hunt is run on military lines and is an exceptionally friendly hunt with a jolly atmosphere. Fields average up to 60 on a Saturday and up to 30 on Wednesday.”

The RA hounds were interested in the stirrup cup.

But the 300 square mile Salisbury Plain also is a military training ground, and once you ride out on it, you begin to realize just how tricky it can be for the unwary! What the MFHA site doesn’t tell you is that you will occasionally gallop around a bend to find a tank or two in your path. There are horse-eating slit trenches dug into the ground here and there. Part of the hunt country passes a mock village used to train troops in house-to-house combat.  And the tank tracks can be a foot deep and extremely awkward to cross if you don’t know the trick to it, which is to always, always take them on the diagonal, and never try to cross them on the perpendicular. Children are almost always welcome to join the hunt, but not, the hunt says somewhat ominously, “on days of military activity.” You get the idea.

For more general information on Salisbury Plain, click here.

The Royal Artilery hounds. You’ll notice a few that are slightly woolly, but most are smooth-coated.

Once you’re over your initial surprise at the unusual conditions, you settle in to a great day of hound-watching. Despite the military activity, including regular firing pratice, the vast plain is full of wildlife, including red foxes, badgers, and the great bustard, a large bird. It also has some farmland, and so there’s a lot to see. And Salisbury Plain is truly beautiful, changing colors with the seasons and as cloud and sun pass overhead. Definitely worth a trip.

A handsome pair in conversation at the Royal Artillery meet.

A note about the gray horse you see in the picture above. We’ve bumped into him before–and photographed him–on our last trip to England, when we visited a horse trials at Larkhill, a racecourse and fixture for the RA hounds. That day, he was ridden by an officer in the horse trials, and on this day he was taken hunting by another officer. The horse’s name is Ollie, and we recognized him easily, because he is missing his left eye–not that that stops him from leading a highly active life as one of the Royal Artilery saddle club’s mounts!

The saddle club provides an excellent opportunity for soldiers to learn to ride or to continue riding, and there are lots of chances for them to compete, too, in local events. It’s a great feature that undoubtedly has helped introduce more people to the joys of a day behind hounds.

Let's gooooooo!

One of the RA hounds makes the rounds at the meet

You’ll also notice that the hunstman and Masters of the RA Hunt wear green coats, instead of scarlet. This is a nod to the pack’s history as a harrier pack; the staff and Masters of harrier packs, as well as of beagles, traditionally wear green coats, and the RA have kept that tradition even after switching to foxhounds in 1946.

The RA hunt staff wear green as a nod to the RA Hunt's history as a harrier pack. The RA changed its pack to foxhounds in 1946.

Some of the RA pack's woollier members.

We will have video from this meet, including hounds’ voices and the huntsman blowing his horn to gather start off from the meet, on Wednesday when we are back in Kentucky.

Food for thought …

To no one’s surprise, yes, I have been hunting the fertile ground of England’s second-hand bookstores again! As always, Mr. McGregor’s shop and the Heads’  sporting bookstore yielded treasures. From McGregor’s (better known by its formal name of d’Arcy Books, in Devizes), this great quote from Lord Willoughby de Broke’s The Sport of Our Ancetsors:

“When a highly-bred pack of Foxhounds have been running full cry for nineteen minutes and come to a check, the first thing they do is to quarter the ground and fling themselves this way and that, all with heads down, and some with hackles up, to recover the scent. There is nothing more beautiful and wonderful that this in the whole of Fox-hunting. Any mere human being in a red coat who tries to correct animal instinct at sublime moments like these, by makng a noise on a copper instrument, is at once a Philistine and a fool–a Philistine to try his hand on what nature is doing for him so much more artistically than he can do it for himself; a fool because no good pack of Foxhounds would take th slightest notice of him if it were anything like a scenting day.”

And speaking of copper instruments …

Next week we’ll also have a little video of the Cheffins auction at which the great 19th century huntsman Will Goodall’s horn was sold for £2600.  Sellers Denise and James Davies of Zimbabwe were delighted with the price but confessed to having mixed feelings about the sale.

James and Denise Davies (left and right), sellers of Will Goodall's hunting horn this week, with a houndblogger in the middle

The Davieses, like the houndbloggers, feel certain that the horn did indeed belong to Will o’ Belvoir, the subject of Lord Henry Bentinck’s classic hunting treatise “Goodall’s Practice,” and they are committed to trying to solve the greatest mystery of all: how the horn got from Goodall’s home at Belvoir Kennels in England after his death in 1859 to an auction house near Harare, Zimbabwe, some 150 years later.

Goodall’s horn brings £2600 at auction

DENISE and James Davies, who discovered Will Goodall’s hunting horn at an auction in Zimbabwe two years ago, sold it today for £2600 at an auction in Cambridge, England. The couple had paid just a few dollars as the only bidders on it at the auction two years ago in Harare.

The Cheffins auction house in Cambridge took the winning bid from a bidder on the telephone, identified as a private collector with hunting connections, but not from Will Goodall’s hunt, the Belvoir.

We’ll have more details on the auction at a later date. For now, many congratulations to the Davieses, and grateful thanks to them for pledging a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund in appreciation for the hound blog’s role in researching this remarkable horn. We have so enjoyed being a part of the story!

Ireland’s Waterford Hunt, hounds by the sea

THE houndbloggers are in England, not Ireland, this week, but we had to share this beautiful slideshow (with audio) from Ireland’s Waterford hounds. The link below will take you to a photo slideshow in 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!

Houndbloggers Abroad–and an excellent fundraiser

THE houndbloggers are back in England for the next week or so, so we’ll be posting on a variety of topics as anything interesting comes up.

The most interesting thing so far has already happened, and that was the annual Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction that took place on March 20 at the Iroquois Hunt Club. Thank you so much to all who bought tickets, attended, donated items, volunteered and bid–even if you didn’t end up buying, your bids helped the hounds. We thought the evening turned out splendidly, and auctioneer Walt Robertson of the Fasig-Tipton Company was a great help, as was caterer Cooper Vaughan, and so many others.

They’re still tallying up the income, but all in all it seemed a highly successful night for the retired hounds. Two of them–Stammer and Starburst–attended the silent auction and circulated among the partygoers to thank them for being there (and, more importantly, to remind them of what they were really bidding for). Thanks to one and all for helping the retired hounds again this year!

It’s Goodall’s horn. But which Goodall?

Did this 19th-century hunting horn belong to legendary Belvoir huntsman Will Goodall or his son, famed Pytchley huntsman Will Goodall the younger? The address "159 Regent Street" that is stamped on the horn could be an important clue.

THE antique hunting horn that James Davies and his wife Denise picked up for a few dollars at a Zimbabwe auction is set to sell in England on March 25. Luckily enough, we’ll be there, too. The hound blog was the first to write about the horn and the remarkable story of how the Davieses found it, and since then its existence has excited a great deal of interest in the hunting world. But now there’s a lot of discussion going on over the horn’s provenance: did it belong to the legendary Belvoir huntsman Will Goodall, who died days after falling on his horn in a riding accident? Or did it belong to his son, also named Will Goodall, the longtime and beloved huntsman of the Pytchley?

The copper and nickel horn bears engraving that reads: “Will Goodall, Belvoir Kennels.” It also is stamped “Schott & Company, 159 Regent Street,” the name and address of a musical publisher that opened in London in about 1835 (and is still there). That seems like definitive information: Will Goodall, the Belvoir’s celebrated huntsman between 1842 and 1859, lived in a cottage at Belvoir Kennels. The horn also has an unusual double ferrule that strongly suggests it has been repaired–tempting one to wonder whether or not this horn might be the very horn that might have played a role in the elder Goodall’s untimely death.

The possibility that it could have belonged to Goodall’s son first surfaced when a researcher at Cheffins, the auction house that is selling the horn in Cambridge, found something he thought ruled out Goodall the elder as a possibility. At least up until this week, he could find no record of Schott & Co. at the address stamped on the horn, 159 Regent Street, until after the elder Goodall’s death in 1859. But this week, the houndbloggers found ample evidence that the company was indeed located at the address from at least 1857, when this advertisement–one of 34 such advertisements listing Schott & Co. at 159 Regent Street–appeared in a single 1857 volume of the old music-related newspaper, The Musical World.

This page from the 19th-century publication The Musical World shows (at lower left) an ad for Schott at 159 Regent Street placed in the May 2, 1857, issue--almost two years to the day before the elder Will Goodall's death at Belvoir..

A close-up of the May 2, 1857, ad, one of 34 we counted in volume 35 of the collected editions of The Musical World.

In case you’re interested in the publication itself, you can leaf through it–virtually, that is!–at this link at Google Books.

That evidence certainly rules Goodall the elder back in, assuming Cheffins excluded him solely on the basis of the address and date. If they are basing their assessment that the horn is Goodall the younger’s on other information, we’re very eager to find out what they’ve learned. On its website, Cheffins theorizes that the horn was “probably presented to him as a young man while serving as whipper-in at the Belvoir in 1870 as a promising young huntsman to be.”

We’re skeptical, until we see any additional evidence. According to hunting historians we know, it would have been highly unusual for a first whipper-in to be provided with his own engraved hunting horn. We wondered at first whether perhaps Goodall the younger might have substituted for his father in the initial part of the hunting season after his father’s death, but according to published histories of the Belvoir, the elder Will Goodall was immediately succeeded as Belvoir huntsman by Jem Cooper.

Will Goodall the elder

When we contacted the Schott’s London office, which is still in business but at a Marlborough Street address acquired in 1908, company employees seemed completely baffled by the horn and could offer little help. Schott was founded in Mainz, Germany, in 1770 and since has expanded worldwide as a musical publisher, not an instrument maker or seller, and its current London staff could shed little light on what the shop might have sold other than sheet music 150 years ago.

Let me pause to warn you here: if you don’t care much about the history of brass instruments, it’s about to become heavy going. We won’t be offended if you just skip to the end!

One employee told us that the Schott company never had made any instruments, but in fact, in Germany, they were regarded in the 1800s as innovators in the design of brass horn valves, as described in some detail in musical instrument historian Anthony Baines’s 1993 book Brass Instruments: Their History and Development. For example, in 1825, “Schott was offering a natural post-horn in trumpet form (as opposed to circular) with four crooks and tuning slide,” Baines noted, and included a picture of this and other Schott-manufactured horns.

Schott Music's current London shop.

But, so far, we haven’t found any evidence that Schott made a regular practice of manufacturing hunting horns specifically, and we think it’s more likely that Adam Schott–the Schott son and military bandleader who opened the London branch for his father in 1835–simply might have ordered a few horns (perhaps only a very few as part of a special Belvoir order, even) from other local manufacturers of hunting horns and coach horns (Keat and Swaine Adeney are the most famous, and both existed at the time). There were certainly plenty of them around, and the practice of buying them for resale with one’s own stamp was pretty common practice, according to one horn collector we consulted. And, as he also pointed out, there are other examples of firms that did manufacture horns (and quite good horns) as more or less a side business to their main work of music publishing.

“We think of Boosey as great coach horn makers, but they were mostly a music publisher,” our source pointed out. In fact, that’s true, and Boosey’s reputation for coach horns grew largely after it merged with the brass instrument maker Hawke.

The Goodall horn. We're eager to hear the Cheffins theory about it--and to see it sell in Cambridge, England, on March 25!

So, on balance, we’ve found no evidence ourselves that the horn belonged to Goodall the younger, although the idea that it might have could tempt some at the Pytchley into a bidding war with Belvoir, if the latter hunt is indeed interested, as we believe they must surely be. It’s our considered opinion that the horn very likely belonged to his father.

Either way, it is a remarkable hunting treasure, and the houndbloggers are delighted that James and Denise Davies brought it to our attention so we could embark on the fascinating quest for its history.

Remembering Laughter

The Yon family, landowners in the Iroquois Hunt's country, had a special bond with Laughter. Photo courtesy of Jan Yon.

LAUGHTER, a great favorite at Iroquois, died last week. She had one of the happiest, longest lives, although her puppyhood started off with misfortune when her tiny tail accidentally got shut in a door. As a result, she had a short little stub of a tail, but it didn’t prevent her from using it. When she wagged it, her whole body wiggled with delight!

Laughter hailed from Midland Hunt Master and huntsman Ben Hardaway’s famous breeding and was part of the “LA litter” that became famous at Iroquois for their unwillingness to give up in pursuit of coyote. She was entered in the Iroquois pack in 1996.

Those are the basic facts of Laughter’s life, but there’s so much more to her story. We’ll let Jan Yon, whose family puppy-walked Laughter in the year before she joined the Iroquois pack, take over with the rest–and best–of Laughter’s story in a moment. The Yons own land in the Iroquois Hunt country and used to walk puppies regularly for the pack, meaning that one or two puppies a season actually lived with the family for about a year before returning to the kennels to join the pack, then hunted by Mark Powell. The Yons’ son Jesse chose Lantern and daughter Isabel, nicknamed Babel, chose stub-tailed Laughter from a litter of puppies in 1995. So it was Babel that took particular care of Laughter.

Babel and Laughter became close friends--and, yes, that's Lantern sneaking up in the background! Photo courtesy of Jan Yon.

Now, here’s Jan:

“Jesse took Lantern and Laughter became Babel’s responsibility. The hound also became her constant companion. Once I fussed when I found a half-grown hound taking a bath with my daughter. Babel explained: ‘Laughter wanted a bath. She got in on her own. Lantern would have jumped in, too, but he got away.’

“Laughter wore doll clothes, submitted to being wheeled cross country in a wicker pram. She and her litter mate despatched all the vegetables the kids could slip off the table. The pups pulled a sled and were often read to at bedtime–all with great good humor. Years after Laughter and Lantern had been entered into the pack, I came home on a Wednesday evening to find a big muddy hound curled up in the best easy chair. At the end of a long run, Laughter had decided, as long as she was in the neighborhood, to call on us. The miasma of wet dog smell notwithstanding, my family recognized the visit as an honor. She was short on tail but long on humor and joy. Now that I think about it, Laughter couldn’t have been more aptly named. Every home needs more laughter. We were glad to have had her in ours.”

Laughter

Laughter and the rest of that litter became excellent hunters, as members of the exalted LA litter mentioned above. But she never forgot her home with the Yons. When she lived with them, she often rode in the family’s old BMW, and in her hunting days whenever she spied the car at a hunt meet, she’d hurry over for a visit with Jan, Steve, Jesse, and Babel.

When she left the hunt field, Laughter lived out her days in good company and comfort under the care of the Hound Welfare Fund. Any time I visited the kennel, I always liked to check in on her if she was in the warm room, partly because I thought she was gorgeous and partly because, as the elder matron of the retirement pack, she was always so friendly and welcoming that she was impossible to resist visiting with for a while. Needless to say, we’ll all miss her but are so glad we could provide such a personable hound with such a happy and dignified retirement.

Please consider helping us help more retirees like Laughter by making a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund or by bidding on an item at our March 20 auction. One hundred percent of your donation will go directly to the hounds, and it’s tax-deductible, too!