Foxes and “foxes”

Red fox, by Rob Lee.

EVERY so often the houndbloggers like to cross over to the hounds’ hunt field rivals, the fox and the coyote, and today it is Charles James’s turn in the spotlight. To get you in the mood for fox tales, we recommend this link to you. It shows a series of three truly remarkable fox photographs that Virginia photographer Douglas Lees took on New Year’s Eve while out with the Orange County Hunt. Enjoy!

Foxes were not the first-choice quarry for mounted hunters with hounds. When the first hounds started hunting stags and the first beagles began with hares, foxes were considered such vermin that they were even beneath hunting with hounds, and no king really would want to be seen putting his hounds on such a lowly line as a fox’s. But farmers, understandably eager to protect their poultry and lambs, no doubt would do what they felt needed to be done. I’ve read that the earliest recorded attempt to hunt a fox with hounds was in 1534, when a Norfolk farmer set his dogs after one.

On the other hand, Chaucer (who lived circa 1343 to 1400) wrote an earlier verse depicting “dogges” of various types running after the fox that stole away with Chanticleer in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale. By the 1300s, mentions of “fox-dogs” have crept into royal records in England, suggesting that foxes were by now at least occasionally hunted, even if they were not yet preferred to deer. An 1833 edition of New Sporting Magazine has an interesting description of this, as follows:”From the accounts of the Comptroller of the Wardrobe of Edward the First, for 1299 and 1300, we may form some estimate of the small degree of repute in which fox-hunting, if indeed hunting it can be called, was held at that period. The fox-destroying establishment of that monarch consisted of twelve ‘fox-dogs’ (terriers not unlikely), with one man and two boys. The master of these fox-dogs’ and his two assistants were allowed sixpence a day, or two-pence each; and three-pence a day for a horse to carry ‘the nets’ was allowed from the 1st of September to the last day of April, which a half-penny a day was paid for the keep of each of the dogs. From these items it appears that the expense for men and dogs was the same all the year round, except that the huntsman and his two whippers-in received each a new suit at an expense for the three of thirty-four shillings and four-pence.”

“The whole concern,” the author writes, “savours so much of rat-catching.”

A not-very-dangerous and not-very-stinky Christmas fox.

In any event, hunting the fox–exclusively and on formal terms–eventually did catch on, and in a big way. England’s oldest foxhunt, the Bilsdale in Yorkshire, was organized in 1668 by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. (A point of interest: that pack today now has a hunt country covering about 300 square miles. I know, I know–and I’m betting they’ve never heard of a McMansion before, either)

The general view of foxes as noxious vermin is made very clear indeed in a book we’ve quoted here before, Edward Topsell‘s The History of Four-Footed Beasts, published in 1607. Of Reynard, now considered our hounds’ beautiful and noble rival on the field, Topsell said: “If the urine of a Foxe fall upon the grasse or other Herbs it drieth and killeth them, and the earth remaineth barren ever afterward.” And also: “He stinketh from Nose and taile.” Well, all righty, then. Mr. Topsell liketh not the Foxe, we presume.

Topsell's version of a fox in his History of Four-Footed Beasts

Regarding the fox’s “stink,” we have found a little note in the slim 1951 volume The Way of a Fox by Douglas St. Leger-Gordon. He says: “A path used by dog, wolf or fox is punctuated by intelligence depots where each passerby picks up the news, learns something about the identity, sex and general history of the last comer, and leaves a memento of his or her own visit. … A fox’s intelligence depot  is always indicated by the strong musky scent which is as permanent as that of wood-smoke about an old-fashioned hearth. … Contrary to common belief, a fox does not diffuse its strong personal odour upon the air as it passes along in the same way that a glamorous lady exudes ‘Evening in Paris,’ nor is it correct to assume when catching a vulpine whiff that the creature has recently crossed the road or path. One seldom winds a fox where it has been seen, nor does experience bear out the convention that the smell–for it is quite distinct from scent–rises after a while and becomes perceptible to human senses.more important still, the strong taint that assails the nostrils when near some port of call (and nowhere else, I think, under normal circumstances) has nothing to do with the ordinary bodily odour of the beast. … Like cats and many weasels, a fox only gives forth its overpowering aroma at moments of intense agitation, as when attacked, or under the influence of strong emotion.”

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The houndbloggers would be interested to see what scientists have learned that might contradict–or vindicate–this view in the years since 1951.

But within six decades, between The History‘s publication and the Bilsdale Hunt’s formation, the fox had become appreciated for its guile and resourcefulness, and for the challenge it presented on the hunt field. This has led not only to countless interesting, and sometimes heartbreaking, and usually very chilly and often quite damp, hours on the hunt field for many, many generations since. It also had produced a rich history of Reynard’s exploits and how they foiled (or failed to foil) the hounds. We give you one from Cuthbert Bradley, a Hound Blog favorite.

“Wheeling sharp to the left, hounds ran hard leaving Quarrington on the right, across a flat strip of arable country. Here the pilot, evidently meaning to reach Rauceby, was headed by a sheep dog, and turned for Silk Willoughby village, where an open cottage door offered a welcome shelter after a quick hunt of 20 minutes. A baby lay on the hearthrug in front of the fire, while her mother busied herself about the house; the fox jumping over the infant went up the chimney. The alarmed mother had the presence of mind to slam the cottage door just as hounds dashed up, or possibly there would have been a tragedy. Gillard was quickly on the scene with hounds, all apologies for the rude intrusion of the hunted one; and the villagers came running up in eager curiosity, flattening their noses on the window pane. …

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caine Croft, the whipper-in, climbed onto the roof peering down the chimney-pot, where he could see the fox sitting on a ledge. A clothes prop was borrowed, and Cox of Ropsley, a keen foot-hunter, out on every possible occasion with the Belvoir, went into the house with Gillard and Mr. James Hutchinson, to get hold of the fox. When Cox eventually appeared in the doorway, holding the sooty form at arm’s length–after his teeth had been through his coat sleeve–the village yokels fled out of the garden as though they had caught sight of the devil himself. Carrying the fox into the open he put him down in an adjoining field, and after dwelling a moment or two, he shot away, like an arrow from the bow.”

The Royal Artillery “Fox”

Today, of course, the English no longer hunt live foxes, but only the “stink,” slopped in liberal doses on a drag. To see what this new “fox” looks like, click on the video below from the 2011 Boxing Day meet of our local hunt when we are in England, the Royal Artillery Hunt on Salisbury Plain. The “fox,” mounted this time with the drag swaying from the thong of her hunt whip, appears at about the 24-second mark.

As for the smell, we didn’t get close enough to whiff it (the camera allows us to zoom). Customized recipes for drag scents seem to be pretty numerous, involving everything from aniseed to fox’s urine (the latter features in the Chiddingfold, Leconfield, and Cowdray Hunt‘s drag, which nearly causes huntsman Sage Thompson to vomit after he sniffs a bottle of the drag-line’s mixture in Michael Slowe’s documentary “Hounds and the Huntsman,” available here). We haven’t asked the Royal Artillery how they make theirs!

A couple of notes about the Royal Artillery. The hunt has a wonderful history and still remains very true to its deep roots in the British military. They drag-hunt over Salisbury Plain, which also is the main domestic training ground for British soldiers, and in this video you will see some of the features of that unusual hunt country. You’ll see the field gallop past a “village,” an unoccupied collection of buildings used for various military training exercises and one of the military features that dot the Plain. The RA Hunt does not have any jumps to leap, but that’s not to say that their hunt country isn’t challenging, because it certainly can be, in a most unconventional way. There are the foot-deep tank tracks that criss-cross the land and which must be negotiated diagonally if you’re to get over them safely, as well as slit trenches that can appear almost without warning and the occasional bits of ammunition (some potentially unexploded, as the sign in the video warns) and missile wire!

And if you’re wondering why their huntsman is wearing a green coat instead of the expected red one, that’s a hat tip to the hunt’s former life as a harrier pack. Huntsmen of beagle, basset, and harrier packs traditionally wear green.

The houndbloggers have hunted with the RA Hunt a few times and count those days as among our happiest and most interesting. Before we leave the subject of the Royal Artillery entirely, we should note that one of its staunch followers, Estelle Holloway, died not long before the Boxing Day meet featured in our video. We have quoted her excellent book Hounds, Hares, and Foxes of Larkhill several times here and value it as a great resource concerning the RA Hunt’s fascinating history.

The Year That Was

So how did the blog do in 2011? If you’re interested in our annual statistics, there’s a link to our stats report below. The upshot is that you all helped the hound blog reach new heights in 2011! The blog was viewed about 39,000 times in the course of the year, mostly by viewers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The most-viewed post of 2011 was The Eider Has Landed, our report of Eider’s arrival at Beagle House on Jan. 16, 2011. (Eider, understandably, is pretty excited about this, but he’s not letting it go to his head.) The year’s top five posts of the year, in terms of views:

1. The Eider Has Landed (Jan. 16, 2011)

2. MFHA hunt staff seminar, part 4: Wiley Coyote (April 26, 2010)

3. Beagles, bassets, and dozens of running bunnies (with two videos!) (Feb. 28, 2010)

4. St. Hubert and the Blessing of the Hounds (Nov. 3, 2009)

5. Houndbloggers Abroad: Hunting’s historic clothiers (a tale of goss, coodle, and ventile lining) (Oct. 28, 2009)

To see the stats report, click on the link below this box:

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bedtime Stories: J. Stanley Reeve

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

The houndbloggers can’t say they knew very much about author J. Stanley Reeve when , in 2009, they picked up a slightly water stained copy of his 1921 book Radnor Reminiscences: A Foxhunting Journal. But he was, in fact, quite a figure of the day. Reeve, who lived from 1878 until 1960, was second cousin-in-law, if there is such a thing, to Theodore Roosevelt (himself a friend of Iroquois Hunt founder General Roger D. Williams) and of the famous poet Amy Lowell, too. Time magazine once described Reeve as the “seasoned and punctilious sportsman of Haverford, Pa.,” and Town and Country gave him the title of “the leading fox hunter of the leading fox hunting city in the country.” Better yet, we have since found a 2010 article by Terry Conway that gives a less formal but more delightful portrait of tonight’s Bedtime Stories author: ” a seasoned sportsman and snappy dresser celebrated for his colorful straw bowlers and, on occasion, a nearly orange suit.” Goodness.

A Radnor Hunt stalwart, Reeve also was on hand for one of the great runs in the history of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, the so-called Lenape Run of February 1932, described in delicious detail here. The history describes “a 9 3/4-mile point–39 miles as hounds ran–in five hours and 20 minutes” that ended with only three riders remaining when the gallant fox was accounted for by the hunt’s bitches: huntsman Charlie Smith, M. F. H. Plunket Stewart, and Reeve.

Without further ado, we turn the evening over to Mr. Reeve:

“It has always seemed to me that those hunting people who never begin hunting until the regular season commences, in November, miss half the delights of the game. Anything that one gets real enjoyment from is worth a little hardship; and it certainly pays in regard to hunting.

“It seems like getting up in the middle of the night the first time one does it; but that good early morning smell; the hack to covert in the dark; and the glorious music of about 30 couples of hounds as they go swishing through the wet grass; a field of only three or four out and all in rat-catcher kit, and all with the same trend of thought! Who is the ‘lay-a-bed’ chap who says it does not pay? he’s never tried it; that’s the reason he talks as he does.

‘But what a blessing it is,’ as my father used to say, ‘that we all don’t think alike.’ Other wise, there would be no nice small fields in August and September, and we would not have that feeling, after a morning’s cubbing, of having sort of ‘put one over’ on the other fellows.

“The present generation of sportsmen–and especially the younger ones–are a bit prone to want their sport made easy for them. Motors, too, have quite taken away one of the most delightful parts of a day’s hunting; that of hacking to the meet and the hack home with a congenial friend; a good pipe of tobacco and maybe a nip or two from a flask; and, as Sabretache, in his ‘Pictures in the Fire,’ says:

“‘How often in riding to the meet have you met and been greatly amused by overtaking a chap who evidently had gotten out of bed that morning with the wrong foot first. Nothing is right with him or his world; horse won’t walk; there’s a button giving him Hades inside his boot; the bad-worded groom has put on the very saddle that he doesn’t like; it’s a rotten part of the country we are going into; not a dog’s earthly of a gallop, and, even if we do, the whole place is wired like a mouse-trap; then, cuss these motors that make his nasty, flashy, washy chestnut shy and go up on the bank; dash the wind that won’t let him light a cigarette; and if he ever rides that horse again may he be boiled; he’d sell him for half-a-pound of tea (rather a high figure to on him in these days); and why the devil grooms put on odd leathers and can’t take the trouble to burnish one’s irons, blessed if he knows … and so forth and so on! Poor old thing! He’s bound to be in trouble, a man like this, who starts out looking for it. First thing that happens to him is that the chestnut, who will not wait his turn at a gate, bangs his knee against it, and then, raking at his bridle, nearly puts one of his thumbs out of joint against the breast-plate; next thing, at a small place that a donkey could jump, the chestnut drops his hind legs in, and flounders and sprawls in a manner that nearly causes the owner to leave the plate. Know him? Of course you know him, so do we all!’

“So different from the other kind of fellow, who, like the ‘lady’ who went to the ball-dance and said she’d had a splendid time–three falls, four Scotches, and a mazurka–is full of beans and benevolence, no matter what happens. When you meet him after the first scene of the first act–say after those men on the haystack have interfered with the plot as originally arranged by the high-class expert who is hunting the hounds–he has a nasty red mark bang across his nose, there’s a hole in his new ‘Hard-hitter,’ and the nice-looking bay five-year-old he is riding has a large consignment of Chester County distributed over his forehead-band and face. Mr. Fuller-Beans says, in reply to your inquiry about the bouleversement: ‘Not a bit, old cock! And he’s never put a foot wrong since! A real topper, and he’ll make up into one of the very best.’ And that nice, persevering young bay horse really does perform brilliantly in Act II, just because he realizes that Mr. Fuller-Beans’s heart is in the right place, and that a little matter like that fall over the bit of a stick that mended that gap is not the kind of thing that is going to choke him off or upset his temper. However, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world, and most of them are pretty nice, especially the ladies.”

Blessings all around


The Iroquois Hunt's Blessing of the Hounds took place earlier this month, with some of the retired hounds participating. Photo by Dave Traxler.

AND so begins the formal season, with the blessing of hounds and riders gathered once again at the old Grimes Mill. Blessing Day harks back to St. Hubert, about whom we have written a great deal in the past. But it also, in a way, “harks forrard” to the hunting season proper, and God knows we need blessings aplenty for that, when somber weathermen and the Farmer’s Almanac both are making ominous noises about a winter of snow and ice. Phooey. The temperature is in the 40s today, and, though it is wet, the houndbloggers are determined that It Will Not Snow as much this year as it did last year.

Baffle got a blessing, too, along with Iroquois huntsman Lilla S. Mason, from the Venerable Bryant Kibler. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Iroquois hounds and followers were blessed on Nov. 5 to have very fine weather for celebrating hunting’s high holy day, as you can see from the pictures and video accompanying. The hunt, founded in 1880 and reincorporated (after a 12-year hiatus) in 1926, has been honoring the Blessing Day tradition since 1931, when Almon H. P. Abbott, 2nd Bishop of Lexington presided. To read more about the history of the club and of the hunt’s Grimes Mill headquarters, click here. Norm Fine, our good friend over at the Foxhunting Life website, recently unearthed a tiny jewel of a film that provides a glimpse of the Iroquois Hunt’s Blessing Day from 1934. To see it, click here.  Interestingly, the 1934 blessing shown in this one-minute Universal newsreel isn’t at Grimes Mill, but, we believe, a stone church near Winchester. The following year, on Nov. 4, 1935, the Blessing of the Hounds took place at Grimes Mill (click here for a Universal newsreel of that Blessing Day), where it looked very like today’s ceremony: horses lined up along the drive, hounds brought down from the kennel behind the huntsman’s cottage, where our kennel manager Michael Edwards now resides. The priest today, as then, stands on the  same old millstone to deliver his remarks.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

From the Houndbloggers’ perspective, it’s especially interesting to look at the hounds, which then were of the rangy, longer-eared American type prevalent in the area at the time.

Today’s Blessing Day, as illustrated in the video below, shows that the hounds and the setting may have changed since 1934, but the basic ceremony (and its appeal to the general public) have not:

We’re also pleased to include a photo slideshow of pictures that our excellent friend (and excellent photographer!) Dave Traxler took on the day.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Several years ago, a friend sent me the text of the 1984 Blessing of the Hounds made by the Right Reverend Robert W. Estill, 9th Bishop of North Carolina, who, incidentally, also came back to the Mill for its centennial in 2008. Estill also was an Iroquois member before he moved to North Carlina, and so he was an especially interesting candidate to bless the hunt’s hounds for the 1984-’85 formal season.

“When I got my buttons and began to hunt with you while I was rector  of Christ Church,” Estill said in 1984, “my Senior Warden and godfather, Cllinton Harbison, penned a poem to ‘Our Riding Rector.’ It read:

‘A parson should have a ‘good seat’

Amd ‘light hands’ and an ardor complete

For riding to hounds

Where clean sport abounds.

May no spill that parson delete!

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“So you and I and this crowd of friends and well wishers come together for the Blessing of the Hounds,” Estill continued. “Yet are we not the ones who are blessed? Look around you. Even the person farthest removed from horses, foxes, or hounds could not fail to catch the blessings of the day, the place, and the occasion. We urbanites often lose touch with the good earth and with its creatures. We Americans have shoved our sports so deeply into commercialism and professionalism and competition that we have lost the sense of pleasure in sport for sport’s sake.

We lose touch with our past, too. With those who have gone before us. You and I are blessed today (in this time of the church’s year called All Saints) by those whom George Eliot first called ‘the choir invisible … those immortal dead who live again in minds made better by their presence.’ When those of you who will hunt step into the stirrups today, you will join, if not a ‘choir invisible,’ at least a bunch of interesting women and men who have done just that in years gone by.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“From the time of 1774 to about 1810, settlers from Virginia ‘came swarming over that high-swung gateway of the Cumberlands into Kentucky,’ bringing with them hounds, whose descendants are here before us now carrying their names as Walker foxhounds. They were first developed by John W. Walker and his cousin, Uncle ‘Wash’ (for George Washington) Maupin. Wash hunted as soon after his birth in 1807 as was practicable and continued to do so until close to his death in 1868.”

Today, the Iroquois hounds are English and crossbred, and the game is more often the coyote, who came into Kentucky from the opposite route that the Virginia settlers took, arriving instead from the West. We do still see the occasional fox, and the Houndbloggers take it as a lucky sign. We viewed a long red one on Blessing Day, racing across Master MIller’s driveway, and we hope he was an omen for good sport and safety for the season to come. But we are just Houndbloggers, and we will leave the actual, formal blessings to the professionals! And so we return to Estill, whose 1984 Blessing of the Hounds seems entirely apt today:

Lord, you bless us this day with all the abundance of your hand.

For horses which obey our commands,

and for mules with good manners,

for hounds in joyful voice,

for foxes given us to hunt,

and for covert in which you provide for their safety,

for friends and partners in the chase,

for food and drink and for those who prepared and served it,

for those whose vision and care made all this possible and for those who have gone before os and are now in your nearer presence,

for St. Hubert, our Patron, and his life in fact and fantasy, we give thanks to you, O Lord.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Houndbloggers would like to add a particular blessing for the retired hounds, several of whom attend the Blessing of the Hounds each year. We’re lucky to have them and however many months or years of their good company left, and they are blessed to receive the Hound Welfare Fund‘s support. We hope you’ll give them a blessing of your own, a way of thanking them for their years of service and sport, by donating to the Hound Welfare Fund. One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donation goes directly to the retired hounds’ care. 

A Peek in the Nursery

Three of the Driver-Sage puppies earlier this month. Photo by Dave Traxler.

IT’S been a while since the houndbloggers have checked in on the various puppies we know, so we thought we’d catch you up on how they’re doing: they’re doing great! With puppies, of course, the news is less important than what they look like, right? So we’ll cut to the chase, because we know what everyone really wants is the cute factor. And there is plenty of that to go around these days.

The newest Iroquois puppies are the SA litter born in August to young Driver–once a pupposauraus himself and now a pack member–and the great hunting lady Sage. Last time you saw them, they were mere beans compared to what they are now. Here they are then:

Some of the SA puppies back in August. Gene Baker photo.

Now they’re just full of beans, as you can see:

A pair of the SA puppies at play on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.

The six SA puppies are doing well, kennel manager Michael Edwards tells us, and we’re still impressed by all the color they have on them.

Hello, baby! Dave Traxler photo.

For more on foxhound puppies, we turn to one of the houndbloggers’ favorite authors, D. W. E. Brock, and his book, The A B C of Fox-Hunting, although we disagree with his assertion that foxhound puppies, when newborn “are ugly, blind little things, with huge heads and wise, wrinkled faces.”

Easy there, Brock! He continues in a kinder vein. “But, after that, they become vastly more interesting little fellows,” he writes. “They grow quickly, but their heads always seem about two sizes too big for their bodies, and, unlike most other puppies, they seldom lose their solemn looks. …

“A foxhound puppy is one of the most amusing and lovable companions it is possible to imagine, and the games which a couple will play together are almost human in their ingenuity. But at the same time it is one of the most mischievous and destructive companions, and unless you, your family and your servants, both indoor and out, are genuinely fond of animals, and are long-suffering, you should not walk a puppy.”

Ah, yes. The houndbloggers and their house hounds nod knowingly at that advice, remembering the arrival of some of the HA puppies earlier this year. Harry, in particular, found the episode Rather Trying, he recalls (see lower left of photo):

"They're still here," Harry said 24 hours later.

The houndbloggers (who have no servants, indoors or outdoors) well remember their first day with us (of a very brief stay). I had had to attend a horse sale, and so Mr. Houndblogger bravely agreed to stay home and babysit the three HA puppies we’d taken in. I’ll never forget the scene when I returned: Mr. Houndblogger was slumped wearily in a chair in the kitchen, where he’d barricaded himself and the HA puppies to prevent further damage to the furniture and carpets. He was wearing wellies, a concession to the inevitable when you have a marauding trio of unhousetrained puppies on the loose. He was stippled from knees to collar with muddy pawprints, and one sweater cuff was slightly unraveled. It had been, I gathered, a Long Day.

The puppies, of course, bounded over to me merrily, eager for more games.

So what of the HA puppies today, nearing their first birthday? Take a look at them now.

Three of the HAs at the kennel on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.

They’ve started their walks out with huntsman Lilla Mason, and, my, how they’ve grown!

Hanbury (left) and Hardboot on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.

Whyte-Melville might have been looking at them when he wrote

On the straightest of legs and the roundest of feet,

With ribs like a frigate his timbers to meet,

With a fashion and fling and a form so complete,

that to see him dance over the flags is a treat.”

We haven’t yet seen these young hounds over the flags, but, more importantly, they float over the grass, Lilla reports.

Hawksbridge--light on his feet, like all the HAs! Photo by Dave Traxler.

Hamlet and Cice Bowers in July. Dave Traxler photo.

Halo and Leslie Penn on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.

As grown-up as they look, though, the HAs are still puppies at heart!

Havoc (left) and Hardboot with a prize earlier this month. Dave Traxler photo.

Harboot on a roll. Dave Traxler photo.

A few days ago, re-reading Beckford’s Thoughts on Hunting, we came across a curious footnote.

“I have seen fox-hounds that were bred out of a Newfoundland bitch and a fox-hound dog,” Beckford wrote. “They are monstrously ugly, are said to give their tongues sparingly, and to tire soon. The experiment has not succeeded: the cross most likely to be of service to a fox-hound is the beagle. I am well convinced that a handsome, bony, tender-nosed, stout beagle would, occasionally, be no improper cross for a high-bred pack of fox-hounds.”

Hmmm! No, no, we wouldn’t suggest it seriously, but, for the purposes of the blog at any rate the houndbloggers are very well disposed to include some beagles. And, as it happens, the beagles have been having their own puppies lately. The Clear Creek Beagles, with whom we hunt as often as we can on foot, have some puppies that whipper-in Jean MacLean was kind enough to photograph:

A bouquet of threeagles, as photographed by CCB whipper-in Jean MacLean.

And two moregles, also photographed by Jean MacLean.

There are some older puppies, too, who show a French influence in their names. the C litter features Chauffeur:

Chauffeur. Photo by Jean MacLean.

… and our favorite names, Chien (dog) and Chaton (kitten)!

The aptly named Chien. Jean MacLean photo.

The Clear Creek Beagles started their informal hunt season this morning, and the Iroquois foxhounds will take to the hunt field in early October. And before long the puppies from both packs will be doing this …

The Clear Creek pack in action. Jean MacLean photo.

… and this …

The Iroquois hounds move off from the Foxtrot meet. Dave Traxler photo.

As always, the houndbloggers will do their best to keep up with the hounds and provide reports on their progress!

Rummager: a royal retiree

The Iroquois hounds on summer walk at Boone Valley.

THE houndbloggers came across this wonderful story while flipping through The Staghound for information about Frank Goodall. Goodall, not to be confused with WIll Goodall but one of that prolific family of huntsmen, was huntsman to the Royal Buckhounds (later, I believe, so was his nephew, also named Frank). In his 1897 book The Staghound, Lawdon Briggs Lee recalls an incident in which one of the pack’s hounds, Rummager, protected his huntsman after Goodall had taken a bad fall from his horse:

A pretty story is told in connection with Her Majesty’s buckhound Rummager. Some years ago, Frank Goodall, the then huntsman, met with a severe accident in the hunting field, and when assistance was to be rendered as he lay insensible on the ground, Rummager was by his master’s side, and for a long time would allow no one to approach him. On the story being related to Her Majesty, it was ordered that poor old Rummager should become a pensioner, have extra quarters and comfort bestowed on him, and so live out his natural life. His progeny remain in the kennels at Ascot, among the pillars of the present pack, which now has J. Comins as Royal huntsman, and the Earl of Coventry as “Master of the Royal Buckhounds.”

Nice story, and one we thought we’d pass along.

Way Back When: Joseph B. Thomas’s Huntland kennels

Joseph B. Thomas's Huntland kennel, photographed circa 1914. Author Alexander MacKay-Smith once referred to them as "the most perfectly appointed foxhound kennels and hunt stables in America." Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

VIRGINIA photographer Karen Myers has unearthed a real gem: a small collection of historical photos from Virginia foxhunting a century ago. To see the collection online, click here.

The houndbloggers were especially pleased to see an array of photos of the Huntland kennel, which housed the Piedmont hounds. Huntland’s owner and the then Master of the Piedmont was Joseph B. Thomas, who–according to MacKay-Smith–at one time kept 105 couple of entered hounds and 48 couple of unentered hounds there for three days of hunting a week.

An American hound at the Huntland kennels. Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

In his 1914 book American Adventures, published around the time these photographs were taken, author Julian Street described Huntland this way:

In a well-kept park near Mr. Thomas’s house stand extensive English-looking buildings of brick and stucco, which, viewed from a distance, suggest a beautiful country house, and which, visited, teach one that certain favored hounds and horses in this world live much better than certain human beings. One building is given over to the kennels, the other the stables; each has a large sunlit court, and each is as beautiful and as clean as a fine house–a house full of trophies, hunting equipment, and the pleasant smell of well-cared-for saddlery.

Thomas was drawn to Middleburg by the Great Hound Match of 1905, which inspired him to build this veritable temple to foxhounds. The “dashing, handsome bachelor and expert horseman,” as a 2008 Middleburg Life article put it, succeeded to the Piedmont mastership in 1915.

Huntland owner and Piedmont Master of Fox Hounds Joseph B. Thomas. Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

The Piedmont’s American hounds were a source of great pride to Thomas, who gradually came to favor what he called “the Old Virginia foxhound” that he felt was, in its ideal form, was “similar to the great British hounds of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,” and he pointed to a Sartorius painting of Peter Beckford’s pack as evidence. In his 1928 book Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages (a houndblogger favorite), Thomas said this about the Old Virginia hounds:

After many years of experience, the author has become convinced that the most efficient pack hound in the world to hunt a fox is this Old Virginia foxhound. …

Such hounds may be considered deficient if they cannot regularly hunt hard at least three days a week, or more than this if required. They must have sufficient determination and stamina never to stop trying as long as their fox remains above ground or their is a vestige of aline left. A pack of such hounds must be able to account for foxes in the roughest woodland and hill country in July heat (as my pack is required to do), sound of foot, and sufficiently agile to negotiate the steepest of rocky cliffs in the North, as well as have enough nose and drive to kill red foxes in sandy Carolina. This pack must hunt with dash and style, carrying great head, negotiating burnt-over tracts, and pressing tirelessly for hours, if necessary, through briers, cane, half-frozen swamp water, as if there were nothing to stop them, and, gallantly killing their fox, come home with their sterns up, a pack in fact as well as in name. In grass country, these hounds must be able to outpace, under good conditions, the best of Thoroughbred horses.”

Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

… and a Hound Blog Hunch Bet Update!

Speaking of the best of Thoroughbred horses, it’s almost Kentucky Derby week! The race is on Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs, and, as regular readers of the hound blog know, our very own Tobermory Box is attempting to become the first beagle to win it.

The Hound Blog Hunch Bet has now grown to an exacta, because Irish invader Master of Hounds remains in the lineup as of this writing, giving the houndbloggers the delicious prospect of a Toby’s Corner-Master of Hounds finish in the 137th Run for the Roses.

And here’s another reason to root for Toby’s Corner: his breeders and owners, Dianne and Julian Cotter, are foxhunters. Both hunt with the Misty Morning Hounds, a drag hunt near Gainesville, Fla. Dianne is the honorary hunt secretary, and Julian is one of the field masters. They also host the hunt’s opening meet every year at their Snooty Fox Farm in Alachua, Florida.

Toby's got a reason to smile: he likes Toby's Corner's chances!

To read more about the Cotters–and about how Toby’s Corner’s mother and paternal grandmother almost became three-day event horses instead of the dams of two Derby starters–click here.

There’s one other Hound Blog Hunch if you’re the kind of player who likes to bet trifectas: Shackleford, because there is a well-known place in the Iroquois Hunt country called Shackleford Hill, not far from the hunt’s headquarters at the old Grimes Mill.

And if you’re looking for a horse to bet that has nothing whatever to do with the hound blog, as far as we know, the Beagle House hounds have made their picks. Except for Bingo, a teetotaler who also doesn’t gamble. We respectfully suggest $2 across the board on Midnight Interlude (Eider’s pick) or Stay Thirsty (Harry’s choice).

On a more worrying note …

Could Eider, Beagle House’s newest resident, be part vampire? Evidence below.

Got garlic?

Bedtime Stories: G. T. Roller

WE’D never heard of G. T. Roller, either, until a big box arrived from England earlier this month, filled with old hardbound copies of the old “Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes.” They were mostly from the nineteen-teens and -twenties, and, according to their bookplates, had once lined the smoking room shelves at London’s Junior Carlton Club.

Needless to say, these sumptuous volumes have been keeping the houndbloggers pleasantly occupied ever since. We first found G. T. Roller on page 167 of the April 1920 issue, as the author of “Hounds, please, Gentlemen!” His story was so wonderful (though sad for one hound and a most unfortunate porcupine), and such a peculiar testimony to the lengths to which hound lovers will go to find sport, that we had to bring it into the internet age, lest it be lost forever. Without further ado, we give you Mr. Roller:

” ‘Hounds, please, Gentlemen!’

“That’s the cry on all five continents where the Empire has, or is about to, paint the map red, also in an occupied country. For wherever two or three Britons are gathered together there will be a hunt, provided they can scrape together horses to ride, and dogs of any sort that can follow a line. The native gets clear of the cry at first, but later–well, he

‘Joins the glad throng,

That goes laughing along.’

and sees there is really something in chasing a small animal with a pack of ‘yap dogs.’

“Last year a certain Yeomanry regiment quartered near Damascus (they must be nameless, for I know their modesty), made up their minds to hunt the fox, the hare, the jackal or anything–what cared they which–as long as it was a hunt. A large litter of pups made the nucleus of the pack, and these were presented to them by the Transport lady dog (a mascot) many months before, and brought up by the Transport who love dogs–and mules, sometimes the porcupine (but more of that later). They–these ‘pariah pups’–were of the age to learn to hunt; but alas! no ‘old entry’ to help ’em along. So these sportsmen tried to teach them, so to speak, by hand. They laid an aniseed drag and loosed the horde of four couple (and the mamma) on the line. The horde assiduously hunted garbage–and on the outskirts of Damascus there is plenty of it–but refused the line entirely. The huntsman hunted the line on his own; it was thick enough, and ‘yoiked ’em’ on with hunting noises and the aid of about four whips. The attempt was laughed at, and the enthusiasts (for a time) were laughed at also.

“Patiently a few of the officers of the regiment set to work helped by a few troopers, real good types of sporting yeomen who knew the great game and didn’t give a hang for the laughs. They meant to get something out of nearly nothing, that would give the follower a hunt. It was uphill work and work done in the afternoon, generally pouring rain, after morning parade that they went out–ostensibly to exercise the Transport dogs, really they were teaching them. They never got quite what they wanted, but with the help of ‘Bellman,’ a cross between a spaniel and–well, goodness knows what, but a sportsman at any rate, drafted into the pack–they began to hunt. It was bad sort of hunting, but it was hunting. So often you can put up a fox or jackal and hounds will run at sight for a bit, and those mongrels did their best. Then in would come Bellman very late, but he’d hunt the line.

“Oh, you of the gallant shires, don’t smile, think what these keen ones were up against and the stuff they had to work with.

“One afternoon a certain Indian Cavalry Colonel came out with the much-scoffed-at pack ‘for exercise.‘ They put up a fox and hunted him in a sort of a way, till he checkmated hounds by descending a precipice. That same colonel was so pleased with the hound work, albeit erratic, that he helped enormously in persuading the enthusiasts to really get hunting going.

“They did, and the opening meet was held at the west end of ‘the street that is called Straight,’ mentioned in the Bible, but never as a hunting fixture in the Field or other sporting paper. It was warm that opening meet day. The hounds were brought up ‘Straight Street’ in the regimental hound cart (half a limber wagon, to speak the truth). When let out at the ‘rendezvous’ they hunted every garbage heap in the vicinity, keeping the whips busy, and finally got out into the country. Not a yard of scent, but about 1.15 they did have a bit of a gallop over an amusing bit of country, little banks and ditches, but enough to fire the hunting spirit in everybody; and they laughed no more. Several hunts came after this with varying success on the east side of Damascus, but giving pleasure to many.

“Then this yeomanry regiment got their commanding officer back from leave, who took over the pack and hunted them himself, showing good sport.

“The pack killed hares and jackals–but let us breathe it in a whisper–never a fox. About this time they obtained one wonderful hound, an Arab greyhound, wonderful and weird with a Newgate fringe round his ears. But he ate up the ground like an Avro eats the air. The pack and the field beat the plain and if they put up a hare that extraordinary Arab ‘welsher’ would spot him and streak. If the hare doubled in a fold of the ground and got out of sight he was done. Then the Master would get up the long left behind pack with the aid of his whips, and hunt; once put up again the dog of the desert was sure to get him. ‘Funny hunting,’ you will say, but it was the best to be had and they all enjoyed it. Forsooth they had a field of eighty-five out with them once, and all to a man went home happy.

“But they had their tragedies, not counting when they were laughed at; Bellman was killed one morning, killed by an overzealous follower of the hunt; that was the worst. Another was the loss of the horn, the only horn the hunt possessed. Wildly did the hunt committee advertise for another. ‘The Egyptian Gazette,’ ‘The Palestine News,’ ‘Brigade Orders,’ even H.Q. cried aloud to borrow, beg, or buy a hunting horn, but alas! no horn forthcame. A cable to England brought one but long after hunting had stopped.

“Also they had humour, lots of it, but the best was when the hunt agreed to bag a fox and take him to the best side of their country, what might be termed ‘the vale.’

“If all facts of the case were known, it was not so unsporting as it sounds, but we have not the space to quote them.

“Albeit a fox was run to earth in ‘the home covert’–a cactus plantation–stopped in and guarded until the shades of night were falling fast, when out came the baggers with spades and a large sack. The sack was spread over the hole and digging started. Suddenly a terrible scrambling and rattling was heard underground and something hurled itself into the sack. They had bagged a porcupine! Unfortunately in the digging operations his near hind leg had been broken, so he was quickly put out of his pain. Everyone had a quill and the Transport ate him, and very nice they said he tasted.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“So through many vicissitudes the hunt got through a season, making the welkin ring round the Damascus olive groves and the native to clear the way to the cry of ‘Hounds, please, Gentlemen!'”