Happy birthday, hound blog!

Looks like someone's already been at the cake ...

WE can’t believe it, either: the hound blog is a year old today! Thanks to our regular readers and hound enthusiasts (and quite a few random visitors) from around the world (yes, really), we’ve logged 18,866 views in the past year, as of this morning. The blog has been linked to from the Berkeley Hunt and Baily’s to Pet Connection and the National Sporting Library, and beyond.

Most of our regular visitors are from England, Kentucky, southern California, Virginia, and North Carolina. But we’ve also had check-ins from Australia, Japan, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Latvia, Switzerland, Russia, France, India, the Philippines, and, hello, Trinidad and Tobago. Seriously. Some of them, apparently, were searching for things and bumped into us (“best twisty pictures” and “dewlap giant toulouse geese” were my favorite two searches that somehow landed the questioner at the hound blog). But most found us because they clicked a link directly to the blog or were looking for hound and hunting information. To all of them, and particularly to those who have started making Full Cry: A Hound Blog a stop on their routes through the week, we say, “Thank you!”

Big thanks also are due to the Masters, staff, and hounds of the Iroquois Hunt and the Clear Creek Beagles, who have let us tag along with that pesky video camera on everything from hound walk to hound shows to hunt days. And to Mr. Houndblogger, who suffered the following indignity in the name of blogging:

Mr. Houndblogger bore it all cheerfully--even the conformature at Patey.

Some stats: our best month, in terms of views, was March 2010, with 2,566 views. Our busiest day was December 7, 2009, when 229 viewers stopped by to see the Middleburg Hunt in the Christmas parade, our most popular video to date. Our two most popular posts? Some of the Best of YouTube and Houndbloggers Abroad: Hunting’s Historic Clothiers.

In honor of the big day, here’s a link to Our First Post Ever.

And we’d love to know: what hound blog photo in the past year has been your favorite, and what video have you liked best? Let us know! And, here, have some cake before the beagles get it …

Advertisements

Bedtime Stories: On Beagling

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

THE BEAGLE HOUSE hounds , if they asked us to read them bedtime stories, no doubt would have us reach for this slim but charming volume that we got at the recent Virginia Hound Show. It is called Harehunters All but apparently went previously, that is before  1951, by the more intriguing name Jellylegs All. If any of you has ever been beagling, you will understand why.

Harehunters All contains brief histories of many of Britain’s beagle packs, written by people closely associated with them. In the entry for the Caldbeck Fell Beagles, established in 1928, Master of Fox Hounds C. N. de Courcy Parry writes thusly (and please excuse the reference to “any stupid greyhound”; we know several greyhounds, like them very much, and have never met a stupid one ourselves!):

“Now, I am a foxhunter with all the ‘hooroosh,’ the bad manners, ill temper, and lack of consideration so often, and truly, attributed to foxhunters. But when I want relaxation and genuine hunting I turn to my beagles and cordially  agree with the old song that states ‘There’s no sport to compare with the hunting of the hare.’ Many people in these latter days seem to want to look down upon beagling as a shoddy imitation of foxhunting and in many establishments there has crept in the desire and the attempt to hunt hares as though they were foxes; huntsmen delight in saying that their hares ‘ran like a fox.’ Let me assure you that no two animals run more differently and is every hare did run like a fox then there would be no hares left, for hounds would catch the lot of them.

“The joy in beagling and in seeing hounds hunt a hare is most essentially not in the racing of one down, for any stupid greyhound can do this. The fascination is in watching hounds unravel the various intricacies which the hare has left for them, without the assistance of a huntsman and two hard-running whippers-in.”

From the wonderfully named Mr. Butcher’s Beagles, C. Leslie Butcher, MFH, chimes in:

“In those days we always met at eleven o’clock, twice a week. With little or no motor transport, we walked our hounds on–often eight or nine miles–leaving kennels at nine in the morning, hunting all day till dark: after a good tea at the private house where we had met, or at the local inn, again walked or trotted hounds home, generally arriving between seven and eight o’clock. That was what we called hunting!”

England’s Britannia Beagles, who are celebrating their centennial this year, are attached to the Royal Naval College. The pack has an esteemed history, but, as Harehounds All notes, “the beginnings of this pack were very humble.” Founded by Lieutenant Guy Mainwaring and named for the ship on which he served at the time, H.M.S. Britannia, the beagle pack at first included his own terrier, “as is testified by a stone, now passed by cadets daily as they proceed from the College to the river for sailing or engineering instructions at Sandquay, erected in the early 1880s to  ‘Jim–First of the Pack.’

“… Though the Commander of the College almost invariably undertook the mastership, it seems that one of them must have decided that though hunting hounds was required of him, running after them certainly was not. For, as long as anyone can remember, though cadets, including the whips who are selected from them, follow hounds on foot, the master invariably has been mounted. Contrary to the belief that sailors are notoriously poor performers on horseback, this fashion does not seem to have caused them any worry. Farmers today still talk, for example, of Commander Philip Neville, master in 1928, who was never troubled by wire because he could always find a way by a gate–but never stopped to open it. It must be admitted that the pack had occasionally had a master who would, on approaching a bank, direct cadets in a quarterdeck voice to fan out on the far side of it to catch his horse in case he parted company. …

“Incidentally, it was during the 1914-18 war that one farmer, having heard beagles were to be put down, arrived at the kennels with a cart and pig netting and offered to take hounds home and look after them for the duration. …

“Before the last war, the problem of getting both cadets and hounds to outlying meets was met in typical naval fashion. Hounds were embarked on a 42-foot cutter, and cadets in the steam launch which took it in tow. The party could then proceed up the River Dart to disembark on either bank to commence hunting. The ‘Beagle Barge,’ as this venerable cutter has been known since it was a tender to the ‘Britannia’ in the last century was used once or twice last season.”

We note with some disappointment, however, that not all hunting authors look so fondly on beagling! One of the houndbloggers’ favorite sporting writers, Frederick Watson, often used his pen for cruel–but evenhanded–satire on nearly every branch of hunting and hounds! He had this to say about beagling, harriers, and harehunting:

“The harrier chases a hare in small circles so that members can pull one rein and still maintain the usual grip on the saddle. When the hare crosses the same field for the seventh time, how the farmer cheers and waves his hat. The beagle is smaller and therefore eats less. It is followed quite a long way off by persons of maturity acting under medical advice.”

Ouch!

To see some beagling (and bassets, too) from this blog, check out videos herehere and here.

The World is His Oyster

Driver, center, on his first summer hound walk.

MONDAY was the day we’ve all been waiting for. Driver’s first hound walk. He loved it! He dove right into it, and we’re not just speaking figuratively, as you’ll see in the video.

Remember when he was only this big? That was almost a year ago, in July 2009, and we thought he was a pupposaurus then!

As you watch the video of Driver’s big outdoor adventure, keep in mind the fact that Driver had never seen a pond before, and had only seen horses from a distance. Confident? You bet he is! But still very much a puppy. We think Iroquois joint-master Jerry Miller, who walked the hounds that day, said it best: “Paper on steroids.”

Tell us what YOU think!

Summer strolls

The BA puppies are taking their first summer walks with older members of the pack this summer.

AND SO we come back to where we started–on summer hound walk! Driver has yet to make his debut, but the year-old BA puppies are gradually being introduced to the working pack. At this early stage, Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason is bringing them out in small groups with some of the older hounds, who can lead by example as the youngsters meet up with new sights, smells, and adventures off leash and away from the kennel. Cattle are one of the important new sights and smells combined, and it’s crucial that the puppies get a good introduction to them, because once they join the pack on hunts, the hounds must be able to ignore cattle (and their scent) when tracking coyotes. The quarry often will run through cattle in an attempt to foil the scent, and hounds must maintain professionalism under those circumstances, parsing out the coyote’s scent without disturbing the cattle.

The Iroquois pack’s early summer walks take place in a large cow pasture. That gives the hounds the opportunity to work around cattle every day, to learn that they are simply part of the landscape, and to grow comfortable with them.

In the video, you’ll recognize quite a few of the puppies: Bangle, Banknote, and Bailey feature prominently!

Other goals on hound walk: to teach the puppies to come, even when something interesting has their attention, and to introduce the concept of working as a pack. It’s early days yet, and the walks at the moment are very gentle affairs as the puppies explore the wonders of the cow pasture, particularly the pond, where they take a dip twice in the course of the walk. But everything serves training.

The hounds clearly enjoy wading and chasing the biscuits Lilla tosses for them in the pond.

Stay tuned for more of their adventures, including Driver’s debut on summer walk!

The Sunday Sampler

Harry and Toby (Mr. Box) at play, as captured by our neighbor Dave and his new camera.

WONDERFUL news at Beagle House: our next-door neighbor Dave, he who doles out dog biscuits by the fence that runs between our houses, has taken up photography! We’re very pleased with this development (no pun intended), because it means he practices on the house hounds, and we get some good pictures of them as a result. The one above is one of our  favorites, and here are two others we love:

Harry explains his Complex and Mostly Secret Plan for World Domination.

"I got it, I got it!" Bingo and one of his best friends, Mr. Tennis Ball.

Speaking of the House Hounds, if you enjoyed their singing act last week you might also get a kick out of this short video about Bingo, the bassist in the trio.

I probably should update that score, because he did actually catch one about a year ago, but, thank heavens, it’s a rare feat.

This week we’ll be on summer hound walk with the pack–including Driver and members of the BA litter for the first time this year–but today we’re enjoying an afternoon at home, sorting through some of the hound news and pieces of interest that have come to our attention lately.

We read it in the Times

If you’ve got a beagle, basset, dachshund, petit basset griffon vendeen, or sighthound who has never gotten a taste of the chase,  The New York Times reports on a few places you can take your hound to let him get in touch with his wilder side without, it seems, actually catching anything.  An American Kennel Club Fun Field Trial in Carlisle, Pa., pairs couch-potato scent hounds with field trial prizewinners who show them how real hound work is done. According to the Times story, “No rabbits are killed, and the only gun is a starting pistol, fired into the air to measure a dog’s ‘gun shyness.’ In fact, the dogs never catch rabbits–and normally don’t even see them–but are judged on their ability to follow the scent as long and directly as possible.” To see how the reporter’s basset, a pampered hound with what the reporter calls “wakeolepsy,” fares in this return to his genes, see the story. And don’t forget to watch the very good video that accompanies it.

If you’d like to see some hunting bassets and beagles, we’ve got some beautiful runs on video. For beagles and bassets, you might like this. For beagles, here’s another.

We read it in Baily’s

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Baily’s yet, you should introduce yourself to this hunting bible immediately! Baily’s has a website now, and it’s well worth joining up to read its articles and to see the routinely fabulous photographs.

Baily's Hunting Directories

But you’ll get even more fun out of reading entries in the old directories, which I am starting to collect. Here are a few wonders from the 1914-1915 edition.

In February:

“A fox chased by the East Essex Hounds plunged into the sea, and was swimming out with the tide when four members of Hunt rowed out after him and rescued him.”

“An extraordinary accident befell Sir Edward Hutton whilst returning to Chertsey from a meet. As he was riding along a road his horse shied, throwing rider into a ditch. The animal also fell with his body across the ditch. Fortunately, the narrowness of the ditch prevented Sir Edward encountering full weight of horse. He was pinioned by one arm and leg, but with his free hand stroked the horse and kept it quiet until a man in charge of a motor delivery van came to his aid and released him.”

In March:

“Twenty English foxhounds being exported got loose and took possession of deck of Dover steamer sailing to France. The crew took to rigging until one brave soul lassoed the hound kicking up the chief row and placed him in truck again. The other hounds then followed him quite meekly.”

From the Department of We Want Details: “Young Lord Chesham, following worthily in his late father’s footsteps, is making himself very popular in ‘Pytchley country.'”

“Miss Isa E. Adams, Boston Spa, reports death of her otterhound, Old Carmelite, at age of 13 1/2 years. As a puppy he belonged to late King Edward, and later became property of Wharfedale Otterhounds, in which pack he remained till he was 9 1/2 years old. He was a winner on the show bench.”

“That there is good money in hounds was proved at Rugby, when Mr. Fullerton’s Avon Vale collection came under the hammer. All told, he received 3,726 guineas for them, the actual working pack of 24 couples going for 2,654 guineas.”

"Did you mention biscuits? I'd love one!" Iroquois hound Sassoon knows what's in the pockets of Lilla's kennel coat.

And the other side of that coin: “At Fitzwilliam Puppy Show Mr. George Fitzwilliam said hounds had cost him 80,000 pounds out of his own pocket since his father’s death, and owing to taxation, etc., increasing, he felt it necessary that he should be joined in the Mastership by Mr. Norman Loder.”

Loder, incidentally, was a close friend of hunting man and famed poet Siegfried Sassoon (for whom both my horse Sassoon and the Iroquois’s lovable woolly hound Sassoon are named) when Loder was Master of the Atherston. Hunting with Loder is a significant part of Sassoon’s splendid and funny classic Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.

And here’s a note that should bring a smile to the faces of the members of Pennsylvania’s Cheshire Hunt. Under June, this entry: “Such is fame. A new pack of hounds has been established at Unionville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and it will be called ‘The Cheshires’–shades of the Grosvenors, the Egertons, and the Wilbrahams!”

That’s all for now. Homework assignment: read your Baily’s, pat your dogs and horses, and we’ll see you on summer hound walk this week!


Iroquois at the Virginia Hound Show (with video)

The Virginia Hound Show: foxhounds everywhere you looked!

IT was hot, but it was fun. Hundreds of hounds, from horizon to horizon. If you can’t be out hunting, freezing in the sleet and gale-force winds atop Pauline’s Ridge or some other place while the hounds go singing along Boone Creek, well, if you can’t be doing that, standing in the shade of massive old trees and watching just about every kind of foxhound with every kind of coat–English woollies, American tri-colors, and black-and-tan Penn Marydels–parading by isn’t too shabby as an alternative. Especially when one of your hounds takes home a trophy, which is kind of nice!

Best fun of the day: seeing relatives to our hounds, such as Hailstone’s sire Live Oak Hasty and Iroquois Gloucester’s son Mill Creek Rasta.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Virginia Hound Show 2010
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a slideshow

But now, as Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason put it, the fun really begins: summer hound walk. That starts in just a few days, and the houndbloggers are especially looking forward to it. Paper, the clown of last year’s puppy crop, is now a hunting veteran, and it’s time for Driver and the BA litter to start walking out with some of the big pack. We’ll be following their adventures!

Well, shoot

ICE BOX didn’t win the Belmont Stakes, much to our Mr. Box‘s disappointment. He finished ninth (but was placed eighth due to Uptowncharlybrown’s DQ to last) in a race that, as our Mr. Box had feared, showed little early pace.

Mr. Box and the Beagle House hounds are a musical lot, and, to express their woe, they have dedicated a special singing of the blues to the equine Ice Box, the defeated Belmont favorite. We wish the hard-running colt much luck in his next race and hope he will turn the tables in the Travers at Saratoga in August!

In case you are wondering, Harry is the lead vocal in the Beagle House Trio. Our Mr. Box contributes both harmony and percussion at various points, and the final “whoot” at the end is his solo.