A bit about those beagles

The Clear Creek Beagles, unboxed

SOME of you might have noticed a little inconsistency in our photo of Clear Creek Beagles Master and huntsman Buck Wiseman’s coat. We posted the photo yesterday to show off Buck’s CCB hunt buttons, and it wasn’t until I downloaded the picture to post it on the blog that I noticed it, too: not all of those hunt buttons are for the CCB. The top one, also featuring a rabbit like the CCB buttons, has the initials R. F. B., a little difference that made me smile. Who knew Buck might have a slightly sentimental streak? Well, okay, Buck–we’ll call it “an appreciation of history,” if you prefer!

The RFB button at the top and the Clear Creek Beagles pack share a nice history.

The R. F. B. button is from the Rollington Foot Beagles, which pre-dated but contributed to the present-day Clear Creek Pack. I guess you could say it was an ancestor to the Clear Creek Beagles. Here’s how Buck described it in an e-mail to me this morning about the Clear Creek pack’s history:

The Rollington Foot Beagles were a revival of E.B. Merry’s Merry Beagles from Gates Mills, Ohio.  Mrs. Merry had a nice pack, but in the mid 1970’s, she was getting older.  She sold the pack en masse to a purchaser who promised to keep them going.  He didn’t, and by 1979, the pack had dwindled to about 5 couples who were disbursed around with various breeders not connected to the National Beagle Club.  Mrs. Merry called the purchaser one day and essentially told him that she might have sold him the pack, but, damn it, it was still her pack, and she wanted it to be a pack.  The purchaser agreed to collect the remnants and sell them on, and I, who had just expressed a wish to have my own hounds again, got the call from Jack Oelsner, the then NBC President to see if I wanted them.  I did, threw kennels together in about three days and picked them up.
Mrs. Merry did not want them to be called the Merry going forward as she felt that I had to give them their own identity.  I did, with her permission, adopt her blue and green colors. At that time, we lived on Rollington Road near the Rollington community in Oldham County.  I remembered that John Cowperthwaite in New Jersey had had a pack called the Readington Foot Beagles, which I thought was a name which scanned well, so the pack became the Rollington Foot Beagles.
They were hunted as a purely private pack, mostly hunting the south end of Oldham County while the Fincastle Beagles hunted the north, until 1984 when I began to take a few subscriptions.  In 1987, Patrick Rodes, son of Jack and Ruby Rodes, the then Fincastle Masters along with Kennedy Clark, was moving to Texas.  Patrick had been hunting the FIncastle, and there was no obvious choice of a new huntsman.  I suggested that the two packs amalgamate as there was a great overlap in the followers anyway, and we had frequent joint meets.  The Fincastle had been founded in 1902 as Clear Creek Beagles.  Rather than have a double barreled name, we elected to revive the Clear Creek name and pick up the old Merry blue collar, a nice compromise, and away we went.

For the record, I love the name Merry Beagles. It suits pretty much every beagle I know.

The beagles on a less formal outing--and still very merry!

Beagles in full cry and much more (with video!)

Photographer Samantha Beckett took this marvelous photograph of an Exmoor hound at the hunt's opening meet in England. The Exmoor hounds cross some of the world's most beautiful country.

THE houndbloggers had a busy Thanksgiving holiday, did you? The highlight of our weekend came on Black Friday, or what Clear Creek Beagles whipper-in (and second in command) Jean MacLean has dubbed “Thanksgiving Boxing Day.” The houndbloggers avoided the crowds at the shopping mall and took to the fields instead with the Clear Creek hounds.

It turned out to be a day of excellent sport, with several rabbits viewed (including one caught clearly on video!) and tenacious hound work by the beagles, who puzzled out the lines despite windy, sunny conditions. And just listen to that cry! We got several dramatic runs, and a couple of those are on the video above.

The Clear Creek Beagles aren’t the only hounds that have their own videos. Recently we’ve found some nice videos and images from Exmoor in England, and we thought we’d share them with you while we wait for an end to local deer season and our return to the hunt field with the Iroquois hounds next week.

The Exmoor Hounds

Nic Barker and her friend Samantha Beckett, a photographer, have been providing beautiful photographs and high-definition videos at Nic’s blog from Rockley Farm. The blog entry with Sam’s photographs from the Exmoor hounds’ opening meet is here, and to see the Exmoor’s opening day video, click here.

Tribute to a Foxhound

Finally, we recently read a moving tribute to a retired foxhound named Quasimodo, who died in August. It reminded us of our own hounds who have passed away, both here at Beagle House and at the Hound Welfare Fund. Can hunting hounds retire happily from a pack? As Quasimodo, our own Mr. Box, and countless others have proven, the answer is an emphatic yes! And Quasimodo’s owner Dorothy speaks for us, too, when she writes:

Good huntsmen talk about “the Golden Thread” of communication they have with their pack of hounds in the hunting field. I have, I believe, been blessed by something very real and of that sort with each of the individual hounds I have had the privilege of stewarding in their retirements. They each in their own particular way have found a particular place inside of me, a feeling as unique to each as their markings and their voice. I have known them each, intimately, by ways of knowing that come about not unlike the things of truth or faith or hope.

To read the rest of the tribute to Quasimodo, click here.

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving (and that you didn’t forget to share some of that turkey with your own hounds!).

Bedtime Stories: J. Otho Paget

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

From Paget’s Hunting (1900):

“There have been sufficient rains to lay the summer dust, and there is a slight yielding on the surface of the turf, as a horse canters along. A goodly shower the previous day has left the grass still moist, and there is a delicious coolness in the air. It is barely daylight when you ride up, and after posting your men at different corners, you throw hounds into covert. … The place you are about to draw is ten acres of blackthorn and gorse in the middle of your best country.

“Though you will probably have no use for a second horse, let them come out, and the men may be of use to you in assisting the whips. Another hint: before you leave home, make a good breakfast, however early the hour, or you will probably be tired before your fox.

“You are drawing downwind, so that there shoud be no danger of chopping an old fox, and, riding into the thickest part, you encourage the young hounds to try. Old one-eyed Solomon from the York and Ainsty is busily snuffling at a tuft of grass, probably where a fox stopped a minute on his way to his kennel. The little tan dog from Belvoir forces his way through the narrow smeuse, and then makes a dash at the clump of briers that are interwoven with long grasses. There is a flash of bright red fur, and a white tag disappears in the thicket beyond. A cheer from your lips and a blast on th ehorn brings all the old hounds to the spot.

“The melody soon increases in volume, and in a few minutes every hound seems to be throwing his tongue. Some of the young ones have already joined in, and the rest are following on with the excitement of the cry.  Keep quiet now, and don’t holloa if you see the fox, whilst they are running well. Listen! there are two or three scents, the tail hounds have crossed the lines of other foxes, but the majority of the old hounds still stick to their first-love, and are bustling him round the covert with an echoing crash of music. It must be a dog-fox, and he will very soon have to leave, but at present he thinks the pack are too near to make it safe. There is a sudden lull–now he is away, and you hear the hoof-beats of the whip’s horse as he gallops down ready to stop hounds should they come out. Your orders were to stop hounds and let all foxes go.

“Now blow your horn and take this lot of hounds to where the others are running at the further side of the covert, but if they can hear the cry, they will soon get there without your help. There is music from every quarter, and the litter are now all afoot.”

Bonus points if you know what a smeuse is without having to look it up! And, no, we still haven’t changed the wallpaper below that chair rail, have we?

Counting Our Blessings

Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason and the hounds during the 2010 Blessing of the Hounds. Photo by Dave Traxler.

the Iroquois Hunt’s annual Blessing of the Hounds on Nov. 7 was as beautiful as always, maybe even a little more than usual, because the weather was cool after a frost and that meant … scent! The pack promptly took advantage of the bit of moisture frost provided and took the field on a good run after the blessing ceremony.

But the houndbloggers know that what you really want to see are pictures! We don’t blame you. Our neighbor Dave took most of the ones in the Smilebox slide show below as he followed the proceedings from breakfast at the Grimes Mill to the blessing itself to the post-blessing stirrup cup and on to the hunt.

You’ll see some familiar faces in the crowd, and not just human ones. The group of hounds who represent the larger pack at the blessing each year includes some of our working hounds, like the giant woolly Sassoon, as well as some of our retirees. The retirees particularly seem to enjoy attending the blessing ceremony, possibly, we assume, because it allows them to go back to the retired pack at the kennel and sit reminiscing over their hunting days of yore.

Bright eyes at the Blessing of the Hounds

As you look at the hounds in the blessing photos, you’ll see a lot of bright eyes and happy, proud faces. Please help us continue to provide our noble retirees with the peaceful, dignified Golden Years they deserve by making a donation today to the Hound Welfare Fund. Your donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the retired hounds’ veterinary care.

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To get you in the mood for Blessing Day …

… we thought we’d take a look back at some highlights from the cubbing season that ended Wednesday. Some of it you’ve seen already in the recent preview, but a lot of it is footage we haven’t shown before. Most was taken with Zoom, the older of the houndbloggers’ two cameras, so most of it is not in high-definition. But we’ll be taking the HD camera to the Blessing of the Hounds tomorrow morning! (If you’re new to the traditional Blessing of the Hounds ceremony and would like a little background, click here)

We hope the new video will help you reminisce about what we’ve seen of the season so far–and about how far the BA litter and Driver have come, not to mention Paper! Paper has blossomed so far this year and we hope to hear more from him during the formal season.

Thanks to the Hound Welfare Fund, all the canine stars of this highlights video can expect a peaceful, dignified retirement. They give us great enjoyment while they’re members of the working pack, and we value every one. As we prepare to celebrate these magnificent animal athletes at the Blessing of the Hounds, please consider helping the Hound Welfare Fund provide for the hounds in their golden years!