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!


Finishing touches, and revisiting the National Sporting Library

FOUR days to go until the May 30 Virginia Hound Show! On Sunday, the houndbloggers visited the Iroquois kennel for the final weekend training session before the show. Driver’s and the BA litter’s training has progressed very well, as you can see by comparing videos from leash-training in February and more advanced training in May. Now huntsman Lilla Mason, joint-Master Jerry Miller, and kennel manager Michael Edwards are  putting the final touches on the youngsters before they head to Virginia on Friday. No detail is overlooked, right down to the shape of the hounds’ nails and the types of biscuits Lilla will toss in the show ring. Want to learn more about how both can affect the hounds’ appearance in the show ring? Click the “play” button in the short video above.

The houndbloggers also will be attending the hound show this weekend, where we hope to get some good video and pictures of Driver, the BAs, and our entered hounds in action at the show.

Are you going to Virginia? Visit the National Sporting Library!

If you’ll be in Virginia for the hound show, there are two special events that will be going on at the National Sporting Library & Fine Art Museum:

  • SPORTING BOOK SALE! On Saturday, May 29, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the library is offering duplicate and used books on a wondrous array of sporting topics. Most hardbacks will be available for just $5 and most paperbacks can be had for just $2,  for books you’d be hard-pressed to find in any of your local bookstores. Topics include foxhunting, horse breeds, riding, horse racing, hunting and shooting, and wildlife and game. Stock your own library or pick up gifts for your sporting friends–at bargain prices. Plus, proceeds benefit the NSL Book Acquisition Fund.
  • NEW EXHIBIT! Lives of Dogs, Viewed through Literature, Art, & Ephemera. Opening Thursday, May 27, in the library’s Mars Exhibit Hall. The exhibit “features books and objects that span four centuries and are selected from the library’s holdings as well as those of private collectors. Lives of Dogs provides a glimpse into the richly complex topic of the relationship between dogs and humans.” Among the things you’ll see: Tubervile’s hunting classic from 1576, Turbervile’s Book of Hunting (see some of Turbervile’s work–and the library–here); artworks depicting dogs, including bronzes and watercolors; a private collection of dog collars including coursing leads, “highly-decorated leather collars with emblems of the dog’s role, and silver and leather combinations with beautifully engraved sentiments identifying beloved family pets”; and books of sketches by Cecil Aldin, Michael Lyne, and Paul Brown. And much more.

For more information on the National Sporting Library, the book sale, the Lives of Dogs exhibit, or just to have some fun, check out the NSL’s website.

The National Sporting Library is located in Middleburg, Virginia, at 102 The Plains Road. Admission in free, and directions are located on the website. By all means, go!

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.

The red ring-neck hounds

WHILE we were in Virginia earlier this fall, the houndbloggers got a chance to meet the Orange County Hunt’s pack of red ring-neck hounds. Alas, the hunt’s Mastership preferred that we not take any video, so we couldn’t give you a view of these interesting American hounds.

Since then, though, we’ve come across this short video online. It’s a preview for a documentary made some time ago about the former Orange County huntsman, Melvin Poe, who more recently hunted the hounds at the Bath County Hunt’s private pack and is the subject of the book Foxhunting with Melvin Poe, by the late Peter Winants.

In the documentary preview above, you’ll get a great view of these distinctive hounds. It’s easy to see how they got the name “red ring-neck”! I’m no expert on this strain of American hound, but I believe they were developed by William Skinker, who hunted the Orange County Hounds in the early part of the 20th century.

The Skinkers are an old Virginia family, and near where the Orange County hounds met the morning we saw them is an area called Skinkertown. William Skinker appears in MFH Henry Higginson’s book, The Hunts of the United States and Canada: Their Masters, Hounds, and Histories, which also has this interesting note about the Orange County Hunt of the time (Higginson’s book was published in 1908, just after the Great Hound Match of 1905):

It will be seen that the Orange County Hunt practically maintains three packs: the English pack at Goshen, N.Y., an American pack at The Plains (Va.), and a third pack of English and American mixed. The American pack is hunted by Mr. William Skinker, Jr., while Claude Hatcher, at Middleburg, has shown excellent sport with the mixed pack …

The mixed pack Higginson refers to here is, in fact, the Middleburg Hunt. The Middleburg Hunt has a close connection to the Orange County hounds; it was County MFH John Townsend who established the Middleburg pack in 1906.

The horn is one way to communicate with hounds. Voice is another.

But back to Mr. Poe. In addition to the red ring-necks you’ll see in this video, it’s also interesting to note the sounds Poe makes when communicating with his hounds. A huntsman’s language with his or her hounds is fascinating and traditionally has as much to do with tone and octave as it does with actual words. But it most certainly does have meaning to its intended audience, the hounds.

In Winants’s book, Poe put it this way: “It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference what you’re saying, just so you’re communicating with hounds, and I sometimes whistle  softly when trying to sneak up on a fox.”

The hounds have their own sounds, of course. Back in the 1600s, George Tubervile described them thusly: “Hounds do cal on, bawle, bable, crie, yearne, lapise, plodde, baye, and such other noyses.” But that’s a story for another day!

Great stuff from the vault

House hounds on the stairs

The house hounds in their observation post

WE at Beagle House will be glad to greet a New Year. We can’t deny that some great things have happened to us this year: we’ve enjoyed writing the hound blog, and we’ve had a lot of fun meeting its readers. It was a great luxury to spend two weeks leafing through hunting and hound history at the National Sporting Library. Best of all, we adopted Bingo, who was on death row in Nashville, Tennessee, before we heard about him and went to pick him up. Watching his delight at having a home and a pack of his own has meant a so much to us. And we all end the year in good health and good spirits, generally speaking.

But we do miss Felix, and far too many of our other wonderful hound friends like Iroquois stalwarts Bonfire and Salt and our good friend Badge passed away this year, making life emptier for all who knew them.

Bingo: Happy, happy, happy!

The great New Year’s traditions, of course, are looking back with year-end roundups and looking forward with resolutions. We’re doing something slightly different: going through our old scrapbooks, file folders, e-mails, and boxes to rediscover some worthy or just plain entertaining things that needed rediscovering. This also proves my contention that sometimes it’s good to be a pack rat!

Here are a few of our favorite rediscoveries.

Weaver’s New Job

Carrboro, North Carolina, animal control officer Amanda Stipe picked up Weaver, a stray foxhound, near the town’s farmers’ market in the spring of 2001. She decided to adopt him herself, but she couldn’t take him home until she was off duty, so she took him to a local animal shelter, explaining that she and her husband would be back to get him in a few hours.

The local News & Observer picks up the story of Weaver’s near miss, which reminds us a lot of Bingo’s:

Unbeknownst to Stipe, Weaver was a repeat offender. They’d let him go once before. Now, he was back. He wa sput on death row.

When her husband, Fred, arrived, the shelter was busy. He told the woman he had come for Weaver, but insisted she help the others in line first.

The woman looked at him. Then she took off, sprinting to the back. ‘Don’t do Weaver! Don’t do Weaver!’ she screamed over and over again.

Now, THAT is a close call. Stipe and her husband adopted him just in the nick of time, and Stipe ended up putting him into training as an agility dog. Again, from the News & Observer story by Leah Friedman:

She noticed right away how he took to agility challenges, like jumping through tires and walking across a see-saw.

‘I picked up that he needed a job,’ she said. ‘He liked the structure and form.’

He got so good that Stipe entered Weaver in competitions.

And he won.

All of them.

In 2007, at age seven., Weaver became the United States’ top-ranked male agility dog, and he’s been the cover boy on issues of the magazines Dog Fancy and Dog Sport Magazine. When he’s not busy competing, Weaver sleeps on the Stipes’ bed and plays with the family’s other hound, a beagle named Barkley.

Good save, Stipes!

Snow Dog and other glorious videos

This priceless and hilarious video was sent in late this year by one of our Alert Readers. We had to share it with you. See it here.

Also in the favorite images category this year, a beautiful slideshow from 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!

Noteworthies in Baily’s

Seen all the good movies? Another dinner out sound too boring? Nothing but reruns on TV? Here’s a better form of entertainment: pull out an old edition of Baily’s, the British hunting directory (actually, the world’s hunting directory). They have a new website which is plenty cool, but, for me, nothing beats the old red hardbacks for curious notes, drama, and sentimental tear-jerkers.

Really.

Perhaps the most interesting bits in Baily’s, oddly enough, are the sections on special presentations and obituaries. Both are located to the rear of the older editions (and, much like wandering through your favorite antiques store, you’ll find lots of intriguing things on your way back to special presentations and obituaries).

The entries are brief but vivid. From the obituaries for 1913-1914:

Abbott, “Bob,” of Thimbleby, an octogenarian. The members of the Hurworth Hunt presented him with a scarlet coat and a silk hat, in which he used to appear with that pack and with the Bilsdale, of which he was the oldest follower.

Baldock, Col. E., notable in the Shires and a pioneer of polo.

Blacklock, Lieut. J. N. S. (8th Hussars); died from a hunting accident in India.

Carr, Henry F., hon. sec. Silverton Foxhounds and Harriers for eleven years with the greatest tact.

Cay, Mrs., one of the victims of the disaster to the Empress of Ireland, eldest daughter of the late Colonel G. C. Cheape, an ex-M.F.H., and Mrs. Cheape, Bentley Manor, Worcestershire. She was a beautiful horsewoman and absolutely fearless.

Cotes, Lt.-Col. C. J., well known in Salopian hunting circles.

D’Esterre, H. A., regular follower of the hounds in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire; alleged to have been shot by Germans as a spy.

Minto, Lord, probably the only man who ever took his bachelor’s degree in racing kit; degree day happened to fall on the date fixed for the steeplechase known as ‘The Whip,’ chief event of the University racing calendar. Putting his spurs in his pocket and hiding his boots and breeches under his gown, young Melgund managed to escape from the Senate House after his share in the ceremony, jumped on a hack, galloped seven miles to the course at Cottenham, and arrived in time to ride and beat the winner of two previous years.

Morris, Martin; thrown from his horse and broke his neck on his way home from East Kilkenny point-to-point races. He took part in the race in which Captain D. M’Calmont fell, and, jumping off, ran back to the assistance of the captain, who was pinned under his horse. That Mr. Morris himself should have lost his life within a few hours was inexpressibly tragic.

Oates, Captain, succumbed in the Scott Antarctic Expedition, was once a master of hounds in India.

Paget, Lord Berkeley C. S., a great supporter of the South Staffordshire Hunt. He led the Meynell for fifty minutes when he was only 14 years old. On another occasion he pounded the whole field by jumping the Blithfield Park palings, and was alone with hounds in consequence for twenty minutes.

That’s just for 1913-1914. In those brief lines, a glimpse of important historic events like the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Empress of Ireland catastrophe, the stark horror of World War I. You also have the colorful flashes regular hunting men and women, now forgotten, made during their hunting lives, and quick snapshots of notable hunting runs and incidents.

Occasionally their very simplicity makes them especially poignant, as in the 1915 obituary of H. Cholmondeley Pennell; “once a good man to hounds; born 1836.”

The presentations pages have a sentimentality all their own:

Barnard, Will, huntsman to the Fitzwilliam, on retiring, a purse containing 500 pounds, and an album containing the names of the subscribers.

Daniels, W., huntsman of the Taunton Vale Hounds, a solid silver Georgian tea service, accompanied by an album containing the names of over 250 subscribers.

Hayes, Frank, the new huntsman to the Mendip, a cheque for 83 pounds from the members of the Cotswold; a clock from the puppy walkers, and a purse of gold.

Witherden, Carey, a silver teapot from the Bexhill Harriers.

Which brings me, I think, to my resolutions. Inspired by this saunter through Baily’s, I believe I will resolve to serve as hon. sec. of the Iroquois with the greatest tact, and to, if I prove worthy, become well known in Salopian hunting circles.

Happy New Year, everyone! And let’s hope for fewer freezing conditions in 2010 so that we may all see more of the hounds and the hunt field–safely!

Please remember the retired hounds when planning your tax-deductible donations this year! Donations to the all-volunteer Hound Welfare Fund are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to aid the retired and injured hounds maintained by the fund.  Donate online or by mail!

The weird and wonderful world of horse and hound

A heart-stopping moment for a high-jump competitor, preserved in the Gerald Webb papers at the National Sporting Library

SOMETIMES you come across stuff you just have to share. That’s happened a lot in the last couple of weeks here at the National Sporting Library. I’ll be poring over dusty tomes from hunting history, or scouring a huntsman’s ancient scrapbooks, or perusing the leather-bound Country Life and The Field magazines from the last century, and something unusual or eye-catching will pop up. Most involve hounds but don’t really apply to my research. Some, like the Country Life photograph of a giant mushroom (37 inches in diameter!) that was labeled “Five Pounds of Edible Fungus,” don’t fit in anywhere. But these curiosities are too wonderful to let go. So they fit in here.

J. Mell, the oldest foxhunter of the time in North Carolina, photographed with his most unusual hunting horn

Like Mr. Mell here. There’s no telling what year he had his photo taken, but here’s what the back of the photograph said: “J. Mell, one of General Lee’s men, age 84, oldest fox hunter in North Carolina, wearing the horn which he carved from the horn of a steer captured by him from the Federal forces at Petersburg, Nov. 5, 1864.” That looks like a mighty nice Walker hound you’ve got there, too, Mr. Mell.

The silver collar was given in Madison County, Kentucky, "to the Fastest Foxhound in the State" at a field trial on April 25, 1866. It is lined in red leather and is fastened "by a small padlock with a secret spring by means of which its circumference may be adjusted to the neck of any Foxhound," according to its history. The field trial was held three times consecutively, and a foxhound named Rock, owned by Bill Terrill, won the coveted silver collar twice.

Some of the weirdest items in the National Sporting Library’s collection aren’t photographs. They’re words, stories, accounts of events that happened on the hunt field. Or in a Los Angeles office building. This is from The Sportsman’s Review in the early 1900s:

The chase began in the gymnasium on the third floor of the Knickerbocker Building on Olive Street near Seventh. It ended with the capture in a steam bath cabinet of a small but exceedingly spry and bloodthirsty beast of the cat, coon, or marten family.

For nearly two weeks the occupants of the big skyscraper have been mystified by tracks over the floors, desks, and furniture. The tracks were believed to have been made by an astonishingly large rat or a cat with a curiously shaped foot.

No glimpse of the strange animal was caught, however, until yesterday noon, when George Bartini, the jiu jitsu instructor in the establishment, opened a small dressing room in the gymnasium. Bartini has the reputation of being afraid of nothing, but when he opened the door he let out a yell that could be heard outside the building and made a dash for the stairway.

With brooms, fencing foils, Indian clubs, and other weapons, men chased the creature into a bath cabinet.

The hunt field, such as it was, managed to tip the creature into a cage, where “it barked much like a small and exceedingly peevish terrier and snapped savagely at any article stuck through the meshes of its cage. The animal is about two and a half feet long, brownish gray in color and has a long black-and-white ringed tail. ”

The verdict was that the quarry was a civet cat, but no one ever figured out how it breached the ramparts of the Knickerbocker Building.

If you think the civet cat sounded well dressed, how about Lord Ribblesdale (below)? The very essence of dash, yes?

The elegant Lord Ribblesdale shows how a gentleman dresses for hunting

The writing of the late 1800s and early 1900s was often clever and frequently florid. You could open The Field or Turf, Field, and Farm and find more words in a paragraph than most people put in a page nowadays. An example, from an 1873 story that led The Field‘s “Hunting” column:

“There is a story told, of the bygone three-bottle day, to the effect that an old gentleman, whose rubicund visage gave suspicious indication that his precepts as regarded temperance did not exactly tally with his practice, felt called upon to lecture his son on the vice of over-indulgence in stimulants.”

Got that? Essentially, he was a teetotal-preaching drunk.

For sheer beauty, it’s tough to beat the rare book room’s volumes of Daniel’s Rural Sports, the first of which was published in 1801. These were donated as part of the extensive and valuable collection that John and Martha Daniels donated. The leather covers surround inlaid watercolors on vellum. Together, the volumes are valued at $5,000, and it’s easy to see why.

A volume of Daniel's Rural Sports, part of the widely varied Daniels collection

Inside the covers of Daniel's Rural Sports, a history in bookplates

This volume tells some amazing tales of canine and hunting feats and also includes this nice sentiment: “Where has Zeal, Fidelity, Boldness, and Obedience, been so happily united as in the Dog? More tractable than man, and more pliant than any other animal, the Dog is not only speedily instructed, but even conforms himself to the movements and habits of those who govern him. Savage must that nature be, which can ill treat a creature who has renounced his Liberty to associate with Man, to whose service his whole life is devoted, who, sensible of every kindness, is grateful for the smallest favour, whilst the harshest usage cannot make him unfaithful; he licks the hand that has just been lifted to strike him, and at last disarms resentment by submissive perseverance.”

Feeling wrinkly? Consider Ulpian, who has, I assure you, got you beat in the wrinkles department.

Ulpian the Wrinkly

Ulpian, photographed in 1914, was one of many wonders to be found in Country Life‘s pages. This long-running magazine and its other British sibling, The Field, provided some of the most entertaining headlines and stories. I found a story this morning in an 1874 issue of The Field that discussed “The Octopus and Its Eggs.” Octopus? Eggs? Seriously? There was also a summary of a game–cricket, I think–between the Royal Engineers and The Wanderers; hard to imagine they were very compatible in temperament. The American periodical Turf, Field, and Farm also provided an impressive array of topics for its readers’ edification, ranging from “Strange Stories about Rooks” to “Gudgeon Fishing” to “A Wonderful Eel,” as well as a surprisingly riveting competition of “base ball” between the employees of the New York and Brooklyn post offices (presumably, their games were never called off on account of rain!).

Speaking of surprisingly riveting … It’s hard to tell who got more gussied up for this hound show, but they deserved to win–and they did!

While we’re talking about Country Life, how about this fellow? Word: you can’t beat the Country Life‘s letters to the editor department for obscure topics.

What the ... ?

I’ve also found a new artist to fall in love with. He’s not new (he lived from 1857 to 1927), but he’s new to me, and his name is Gustav Muss-Arnolt. The National Sporting Library has a group of nine hound paintings that Muss-Arnolt did in the 1890s, and they were my favorite things at the library. I will leave you with the largest of them, a portrait of a hound named Matchless who appears to personify the quality of sagacity that we always hear applied to hounds:

Matchless. Doesn't he look as if he sees right into your soul?

Needless to say, it will be hard for this houndblogger to leave the marvelous vault, shelves, and galleries of the National Sporting Library. Fortunately, I’ve stocked up on interesting stories that I can unwind over the next few months or years, so the National Sporting Library’s books, archives, photographs, and collections will continue to make regular appearances here.

Thank heavens we have such a priceless resource right here on our shores! I hope you will support them by joining, so that they can continue to help keep the history of field sports alive, thriving, and available to the public.

The Great Hound Match of 1905-Part 2

Many thanks to the National Sporting Library for access to its archives and for use of the photos. Among the original documents there are hunting diaries kept by both Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith.

THE competing hounds, the Middlesex Hunt’s English hounds and the Grafton Hunt’s American hounds, took a break on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1905. The “score” was essentially even, with no clear winner in the book yet. But word was out: the Great Hound Match of 1905 was providing some of the best sport American foxhunting had ever seen. On the Sunday that the two packs rested, intrepid hunters from nearby Warrenton and Clark County, Virginia, arrived en masse with plans to join the fun when the Middlesex hounds resumed the competition on Monday in what was now becoming known as “the Market Harborough of America,” according to one reporter, a reference to the heart of England’s famed Leicestershire hunting country.

“The farmers and landowners have received the hunting contingent royally,” the same paper noted. “Not only have they willingly offered their fields for hunting, but have done all in their power to further good sport. The Piedmont Hunt has done all in its power to protect the farmers, repair the damage done to wire by cutting and keeping an actual record of all injuries received by the farmers on account of riding over their lands. … In this way a fine hunting feeling is spreading through Piedmont valley, and there can be no doubt that very shortly this country will be the Mecca to which all fox hunters will turn for sport.”

Participants in the Great Hound Match meets were provided with invitations and badges for each meet

Monday dawned overcast with scenting judged good for the meet at MIddleburg. MFH Henry Higginson’s Middlesex pack, hunted by the hunt’s English professional huntsman Robert Cotesworth jumped a fox in their very first covert just 10 minutes into the hunt, “And hounds were in full cry at 7:35,” the judges’ report informs.

There were two checks in the run, one for three minutes among cattle at 7:50 and a second for two minutes at 8:15, before the pack ran the fox to ground–the first time in the match that a fox was accounted for. Judge H. L. Movius called it “a fine run” and considered that “the hounds ran very well, although they did not show very much speed.”

The other two judges, Dr. Charles McEachran and James K. Maddux, were more effusive. McEachran said: “Today’s hunting was in my opinion the best shown to-date. From the time the fox was found with exception of two checks, one of three minutes, the other of two minutes, they held to th eline splendidly. They ran their fox to ground, and every hound in the pack hunted, was up at the earth. From the time the fox was found until he was run to ground, the field had 57 minutes of as good a run as anyone could wish.”

“The work of the Middlesex hounds far surpassed what I had expected to see English hounds do here,” Maddux reported. But he ended with a speculative note of doubt, adding, “But while they hunted admirably and gave splendid sport, I do not think they ran fast enough to kill in this country.”

Accounts of the Middlesex run were printed in the London Daily News, New York Herald, and Boston Herald–an indication of how widely the Great Hound Match was, by this point, being followed.

On Tuesday, day 7, MFH Harry Worcester Smith’s Grafton hounds took the field again. Smith hunted his hounds himself, as was his custom, and he did it with a broken foot. In fact, both competing Masters were riding with cracked bones: Higginson had broken two ribs early in the match.

Following the English hounds’ high standard the previous day, Smith now had his work cut out for him, as the Boston Herald pointed out.

“When the Grafton pack started this morning it was up to do something to even up yesterday’s splendid performance of the Middlesex hounds,” the paper reported.

Smith’s morning started off badly. Early morning winds, a frostless night, and only a light dew didn’t bode especially well for scenting, and for a while Smith’s American hounds trailed down Goose Creek “and did nothing,” the Herald said. “Up to nine o’clock it looked very much as if the Grafton pack was to draw another blank. This difficult situation persisted for another hour and a half, and the Grafton supporters’ hearts sank. Then suddenly: a fox.

Two hounds discovered Reynard, who bolted up a hill as the rest of the pack harked to the two that found him. He ran about 200 yards ahead of the pack, which appeared, some said, to be running him almost on sight.

“The first part of the day when hounds galloped away without drawing or running a fox was a sorry exhibition, but after the fox was jumped hounds ran remarkably fast,” Movius, a judge, said.

MFH Harry Worcester Smith hunted the Grafton's match pack, six couple of American hounds

The fox carried them across a road, around a two-mile loop, then back across the road. “By this time,” our Herald reporter continued, “the fox had gained enough distance to allow him a minute in which to lay a Chinese cryptogram for the pack on a dry field just north of the pike.”

This resulted in a check, and another judge, Maddux, took matters into his own hands. Movius, summarizing the first part of the run, said, “I was kept out of the first part of the run by the creek, but found hounds at the first check at 10:10, here hounds were helped by Mr. Maddux (having viewed the fox), who, as one of the judges, should not have handled them. From here hounds worked on a cold trail for 50 minutes (about one mile) when the fox was again viewed and hound were put on the hot trail by Mr. Smith.”

That was the last the field saw of them.

In the end, the hounds lost their fox, though, the judges having been distanced, no one could say for certain exactly when or where. McEachran described the straggling end to the day as hounds, recovered by Smith after  a disappearance of an hour and a half, were continuing to try to find their fox.

“When I picked up the pack again there was nothing doing but running stale lines,” McEachran wrote.

The Middlesex returned to battle for day 7 but were quickly hampered by high winds that, in the opinion of the judges, completely undid scent after about 45 minutes. Hounds found their fox 12 minutes into the hunt, and “we had several good bursts, and hounds showed splendid work and manners,” McEachran reported. They pursued the fox to a ruined house, where landowners told Middlesex huntsman Cotesworth that foxes often went to ground.

The Middlesex hounds convinced some skeptics that English hounds are fast enough to account for the speedy American red fox

“Hounds spoke until within fifty yards of the old house,” McEachran wrote. “To-day’s sport I consider first class. All hounds up at finish.”

Even Maddux, the judge originally nominated by Smith and one who earlier in the week had been skeptical that the Middlesex hounds were fast enough to catch a red fox in Virginia, had changed his mind based on their latest performance. “The Middlesex hounds to-day ran their fox brilliantly for twenty minutes, the pace was very hot, quite good enough to enable them to kill,” he wrote in his report. “Up to this time I did not believe English hounds capable of running fast enough to kill in this country. However, I now think if they can keep on going as fast as the first twenty minutes, they have as good a chance to kill as the American pack.”

On day 8, high winds came with the sunrise, and Grafton suffered a calamitous lack of scent.

“The best that Grafton hounds could do after trailing an hour and a half was to furnish a nine-minute burst that filled the field with the hope that in spite of adverse circumstances a kill would be recorded,” the Boston Herald said.

The windy weather wasn’t the only unlucky circumstance to trip up the American hounds, as the Herald reported: “When the American pack had the fox up and going they were crossed by the Orange County Hunt of New York, which is wintering at The Plains, some 14 miles distant from Upperville. Mr. John R. Townsend and Mr. Robert Gerry of New York, who were with the Orange County hounds, called off hounds and coupled them, but after the interruption Mr. Smith’s hounds were unable to find again in that locality.”

The American hounds, like this Walker hound shown with Iroquois Hunt founder Col. Roger D. Williams, had a racy build that served their fantastic speed in pursuit of fox. But early on even their supporters worried that the hounds might be too independent for classic pack work.

Smith was allowed to hunt “from sunrise to sunset” under the rules, and he pretty well did that on day 8 in search of better luck, leading the field across an estimated total of 60 miles. The field included Smith’s old friend Burrell Frank Bywaters, who followed the action–what there was of it–in his buggy on the roads. To add insult to injury, after Smith’s trying afternoon, Bywaters fell in with a local pack of hunters on his way back to his lodgings–and those hunters saw their hounds run a fox to ground.

Smith’s pack finally found a fox at 4:07 p.m. Led by his standout hound Sinner, a Bywater dog, Smith’s American hounds ran for 18 minutes and put the fox to ground.

But it was a lackluster day, as Movius described: “Hounds showed good speed in the last burst. Hounds worked indifferently at times.” Still, a new judge, Hunter Dulany, scored them as working “remarkably well.”

On day 9, the English Middlesex hounds returned to the field in frosty conditions that had put a fragile layer of ice on smaller streams. Scenting nonetheless was judged “fair” to “poor” by the judges, and hounds drew seven coverts without success. But then they went away “giving good music”,” according to a press report, burst into full cry while closely pursuing a fox. The fox went to ground in an open field, and “the pack swarmed around the entrance within a minute,” the report said.

This time, it was Higginson’s pack who got the dreaded review of “worked indifferently at times” from Movius; the failure to find at early coverts had counted against them.

When the Middlesex hounds returned to their kennels approaching sunset, they had run foxes during their outings for a total of four hours and 58 minutes; the Grafton’s American pack had run foxes for six hours and 32 minutes. With only three days left in the match, the judges were facing the very real possibility that neither pack actually would catch a fox to win. If they didn’t, then it would be up to the judges to award the cup (and the $2,000 stake) to the pack showing the greatest ability to manage a kill–even if they hadn’t.

The Middlesex Hunt's English hounds were a heavier type than the American hounds and had substantial bone. Hound match judges were surprised by their speed and good cry.

In the meantime, Middlesex Master Henry Higginson was grounded by a bizarre incident in which a landowner, Amson Payne, had arrested Higginson for trespassing on his land. Payne threatened, in fact, to arrest the entire hunt in an incident that the Piedmont Mastership understandably found embarrassing. But until the issued could be settled, Higginson stayed out of the saddle in order to make his appointment with the local magistrate. Payne, at the hearing, admitted his land hadn’t been damaged when Higginson accidentally crossed it but said he would sue all of the riders behind Higginson in the field, a process that would have tied them up in court for some days, unless the  Middlesex Master agreed to pay him $100. Higginson made a compromise and paid the man $50.

While Higginson was detained at the magistrate’s, Smith was enjoying a run with his hounds. They got up one fox, but soon afterwards two more sprang up, briefly distracting hounds before they followed one toward Leesburg. “All of a sudden, the hounds ceased giving tongue and the field, which had a generous run across country, was left in doubt as to what had happened,” one newspaper reported. “The hounds either lost or denned the fox in this vicinity and an investigation was being made this afternoon.”

Henry Higginson

Smith himself lost his hounds, but the judges generally remained impressed with the pack’s speed and initiative.

The Middlesex hounds’ final day in competition proved a sad and frustrating one. Just minutes after the moved off from the meet, “as the hounds turned off the road into the open field on the way to the covert, a red fox that trotted out of the Bald Hill woods was headed directly towards the hungry-mouthed pack,” the Richmond Transcript reported. “The hounds did not scent or see him at first. Cotesworth saw him before the hounds, and hied on the pack full cry and running on sight from the very first.”

The fox paused for a critical moment, then made a fast dash, but the hounds were already too close.

The hunters, including Higginson, were deeply unhappy with the circumstances of the match’s first kill and strongly suspected that someone had dropped a “bagged” fox in the covert. The hunt continued after this dispiriting start, and Higginson’s English hounds ran another fox to ground. Higginson called for an immediate investigation of the killed fox, and the judges, on taking testimony, unraveled a sad tale. A man named Hall had bought a fox for $4.50 the day before and then, Hall said, the fox had escaped from him in the vicinity of the covert. The kill, regretted by everyone, was disallowed as any evidence of anything other than terrible circumstance.

The Grafton met on the final day, with good scenting in their favor. The pack quickly got up one fox, then another, and split, with two couple running the first and four couple running the second. “I went as fast as I could gallop to Steptoe Hill, when I got there I found the entire pack giving beautiful music. Three foxes broke away in different directions. the pack took up one line, stuck to it. … The run was fast and notwithstanding the cold weather, the hounds held to the line and threw their tongue each.”

Joseph B. Thomas, who became an authority on foxhunting, was among those who was inspired to set up kennels in the Middleburg area after the Great Hound Match of 1905

Movius differed with McEachran in assessing the scent, calling it “poor” to McEachran’s “good,” but he, too, was impressed by the American pack. “Hounds followed line very well considering the unfavorable conditions,” he said.

The match concluded at about 10:15 a.m. when Harry Worcester Smith’s hounds lost their fox.

Does it sound like a draw to you? It does to me. Which is why I was surprised to read the judge’s one-sentence decision: “We award the Match and the stake together with the Townsend Cup to the Grafton Hounds, they, in our opinion, having done the best work with the object of killing the fox in view.”

Harry Worcester Smith took the win as a complete vindication of his view that the American hound was the best animal for hunting the red fox in America. But even the editors of The Rider and Driver, where the whole match challenge had started almost a year earlier, were more tempered in their view: “As may be noted by the account elsewhere the English hounds were no doubt working under some serious handicaps. There was no little native fervor exhibited on behalf of the American hound, at least that seems to be indicated by the fact that on two occasions the American hounds were lifted by judges and laid on the line of scent. These incidents, however, were not permitted to weigh with the judges in reaching their decisions.”

It should be noted that the English hounds faced quite a few obstacles. Higginson did not prepare them as strenuously for the match as Smith did his hounds, for one thing. And, unlike the Grafton pack, the Middlesex hounds had arrived not too long before from England and had no experience of hunting in Virginia, which Smith had afforded his hounds in their time hunting with Bywaters.

Higginson wrote that he was “perfectly satisfied with the work of my hounds,” adding “Messrs. Movius, Maddux and McEachran gave the decision to the Grafton, and it would be most discourteous to them for me to make any statements as to how their decision agreed with anything I may or may not think.”

A reward for a job well done, by all the hounds!

Needless to say, the debate over English versus American hounds continued long after the Great Hound Match of 1905. It still continues, even as fox-catching has given way to fox-chasing as a goal of the hunt, and as development and the coyote’s new predominance as game in many territories have prompted packs to reassess their hound programs.

So what, if anything, did the Great Hound Match of 1905 accomplish? Several things. It raised Virginia’s profile as the nation’s most fashionable place to hunt and helped the sport to grow here; among the people drawn to the Middleburg area by the hound match was Joseph B. Thomas, who built a state-of-the-art kennel at Huntland here and went on to write the wonderful book Hounds and Hunting through the Ages.

More importantly, from working foxhounds’ point of view, the match showcased the talents of both types. The match proved that English hounds could, in fact, provide brilliant sport and beautiful music, and that they were fast enough to press and catch foxes in America as they had for centuries in English grasslands and woodlands. The match also proved that American hounds’ independence could be managed through thoughtful training and that their sizzling speed, even though it outpaced a field of followers, was indeed more than enough to account for American red foxes. In short, the match proved the worthy qualities of both hounds.

Today, the emphasis on catching red foxes has faded in America. Unlike in England, where sheep farming is still common, foxes are rarely a problem to farmers here. But hound lovers and foxhunters undoubtedly will continue to argue, as they always have, the merits of one kind of hound against another for providing good sport.

The Great Hound Match of 1905 – Part 1

Many thanks to the National Sporting Library for access to its archives and for use of the photos. Among the original artifacts there are hunting diaries kept by both Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith.

IT started with a letter in The Rider and Driver back in 1904, when Massachusetts M.F.H. Harry Worcester Smith called on American foxhunting authorities to widen their breed standards to include the emerging American type of foxhound. At that point, the English hound–bigger and heavier–was the foxhound breed standard, but Smith led the charge to include the leaner, racier American type of hound that was being bred mostly in the deep South, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as a legitimate and approved standard. His argument was founded mainly on his strong belief that, while the English hounds were still dominant in the hound show ring, the lighter-boned American hounds were better at catching foxes.

“Shall we hold to the heavy English type or shall we go to the racing type, that type which is the successful hound to kill a fox and acknowledged by and proven so by our own trials?” Smith, the Master of the Grafton Hunt (Massachusetts), wrote.

Smith’s assertion was an affront to many established packs who had carefully selected their hounds from some of England’s best packs, packs that had bred hounds for centuries to chase and account for foxes. By comparison, English proponents argued, the new American-style hounds hardly constituted a reason to alter an established breed standard.

“The truth of the matter is this–there is no American foxhound to-day,” responded another Massachusetts M.F.H., Henry Higginson of the Middlesex Hunt. “What Mr. Smith wants, what we all want, is a hound that will kill foxes in America. Now, how are we to get this? Mr. Smith thinks by turning to a lighter type of hound. To quote him: ‘This being the situation, it seems wise to me to allow the Southerners, who have put more time, care, and thought into the breeding of hounds for killing the fox than all the rest of us combined, to have their type acknowledged.’

“Now, if Mr. Smith thinks this, then why not take the English standard? No sane man will deny that our brother sportsmen across the pond ‘have put more time, care, and thought into the breeding of hounds to kill foxes than all the rest of us’ (including the Southerners) combined. Why, when they have produced an animal which, for symmetry, power, hardiness, speed, nose, and staying qualities is unequalled, should we Americans–novices at the game–say: ‘No! We know more than they; we’ll stick to our own weedy sort!'”

Higginson faulted the American hounds both for their “weedy” build and for a relative lack of biddability, and asked, rhetorically, how many of the American hounds’ kills were accomplished “without the use of powder and shot?”

Higginson ended his letter with a direct challenge to Smith: “Let Mr. Smith choose a judge, let me choose a judge, let the two name a third. Then let Mr. Smith go to any fair fox-hunting country in America with such hounds as he chooses–and I will bring such clean-bred hounds as I choose and my huntsman and whippers-in–and we’ll hunt on alternate days for love, money, or marbles. Then if his hounds kill more foxes than mine or show better sport, I’ll admit I’m wrong–but not till then.”

Harry Worcester Smith, the man who got the ball rolling for the Great Hound Match. The Grafton (US) Master was an outspoken proponent of the American foxhound.

After weeks of negotiations over the match’s terms–and after both Smith and Higginson had pulled together packs with the best hounds they could find from American and English breeders, respectively–the Great Hound Match of 1905 finally was agreed to take place on November 1, 1905, in Virginia’s hunt country. The months leading up to the match were marked by acrimonious public exchanges between Higginson, Smith, and their various pro-English or pro-American supporters, as well as by breathless press accounts of the two packs, their breeding and facilities, and the larger debate over which type of hound was indeed best for pursuing the American fox. Insider magazines like The Rider and Driver and The Sportsmen’s Review were understandably hanging on every development, but so, too, did the New York Tribune and the Associated Press.

Smith, for his part, didn’t hesitate to make a Master’s opinion on hound breeding a question of patriotism: “We have just enough pride in America to be willing to back the Grafton Hunt with American hounds, American thoroughbred horses … with saddles and bridles not made by Whippey, but the best that can be made in the United States of America; the livery made in American mills by American operatives, from the tip of the boot to the velvet on the cap, against the imported production.”

By the time the first hunt took place, a lot had happened. The parties had each put up $1,000 for a winner-take-all prize, the Orange County Hunt in Virginia sponsored the winner’s choice of a cup or a $250 purse, and both Smith and Higginson had scouted out the best recruits for their respective packs. Smith appears to have been more detailed in his preparations: he bought a topographic map of the Piedmont Hunt country and toured the land with Piedmont M.F.H. Dick Dulany. Neither pack was allowed to hunt the country before the match opened, but Smith brought his pack to the Middleburg area the month before the match and, coupling them, roaded them all through the lanes between Upperville and Middleburg, with the aim of teaching his hounds  their way back to kennels, wherever they might find themselves on a hunting day.

In fact, the Grafton competitors had had ample training in Virginia hunt country already, courtesy of the famed Virginia hound breeder Burrell Frank Bywaters, from whom Smith had bought hounds. In a letter quoted in Alexander MacKay-Smith’s The American Foxhound 1747-1967, Bywaters wrote: “I hunted his hounds for him the winter before the meet. He wanted them to mouthe a lot of foxes.”

The composite Grafton match pack consisted largely of hounds from Virginia and Kentucky.

Henry Higginson, a staunch supporter of the English-bred hound and MFH of the Middlesex Hunt.

By the time Higginson’s 25 couple of English hounds and their hunt staff rolled into town a few days before the match, Smith’s comparatively small pack of six couple were old hands at Virginia foxhunting. It’s interesting to note, as an aside, that two of his hounds, Snodgrass and Simon, were, as Smith put it, “quarter-bred English,” but these he apparently considered the weakest members, “simply good as running with the pack,” he claimed in The Sportsman’s Review.

Higginson himself didn’t arrive until the day before the match, when his hounds were to be the first to hunt. But, like Smith, he had put careful thought into making up  his pack for the match. He imported 20 couple of foxhounds from the Fernie.

“All are built along the approved English type,” a reporter who visited the Middlesex kennel wrote, “and it has been the main contention of the opponents of the English dogs that they are too heavy to travel fast, although the justice of this criticism has been questioned, as they are able to go faster than any horse that has ever run with them. They are also noted for their docility and can be called from a scent no matter how hot it is, and steered away on a new course with little difficulty.”

If the main question American hound proponents had about the English hounds was whether they were fast enough, the doubt English supporters had about the American hounds was whether they could be controlled. MacKay-Smith notes, “Even those who had faith in the hunting abilities of the American hounds were fearful that they would be uncontrollable.”

The main reason for those doubts stemmed from the way the nascent American type of foxhound had been bred and raised to hunt: independently, often on their own in rocky country too difficult for man to follow on horseback, and often in the night-hunting tradition, in which the “followers,” instead of following, built campfires and sat through the night, enjoying echoes of their hounds’ voices as they ran foxes on their own.

Night-hunting with foxhounds, an American tradition that heavily influenced early American foxhound breeding and produced a fast, highly independent hunting hound

In his unpublished autobiography in the National Sporting Library‘s archives, Harry Worcester Smith himself described the style, utterly foreign to generations of English huntsmen, that he found when he visited Bywaters in Virginia:

We started out with 15 couples of grand looking hounds. … There was little chance to follow hounds because of the rough and mountainous country, but it was great how all these sporting families loved and appreciated a good hound. When the hounds were taken to hunt, they went to the mountain. Their owners knew from the cry which hound had struck a cold trail and when another joined in. When the cry was redoubled we knew that Reynard was up. There was no chance of getting to the hounds–you could only figure in your mind where you thought they might come, and, by galloping, obtain a position at a point where they could come towards you in full cry, possibly see the red fox, and hear them go away.

Faced with hounds who were bred to be highly independent, both of the huntsman and each other, Harry Worcester Smith had done three things to try to minimize potential control problems: he had limited his match pack to six couples, sent his hounds for hunting in Virginia with Bywaters, and roaded them extensively, in couples, around the Middleburg area in the month leading up to the match.

The Match

The match started off with tremendous fanfare. A local newspaper reported that 100 horses had been imported to the Middleburg area so that their riders from up and down the East Coast could ride behind the Grafton and the Middlesex packs as they attempted, once and for all, to settle the question of whether English or American hounds were superior for hunting the American red fox.

Despite the minute-by-minute coverage in the press and the pressing hordes of riders, including quite a number of Society’s brightest lights, the first two days–the Middlesex hunting Nov. 1 followed by the Grafton on Nov. 2–proved blank. Interestingly, Higginson arrived nearly an hour late for the opening meet, delaying his hounds’ start, an incident that in retrospect did not help their chances as scenting declined with the rising sun. He was not, at any rate, late again.

Things picked up on day 3, when the English pack, on a scenting day the judges described as “only fair,” found a fox and ran it for 47 minutes without a check, “even giving tongue as they swam across a creek,” according to the judges’ report. They earned high praise for their good work on cold trails under professional huntsman Robert Cotesworth. The day wasn’t without incident for riders, either. At Goose Creek, judge Fred Okie attempted to follow hounds across the water, as described in the press: “Both he and his horse disappeared under the water, and for a few minutes it was thought that both would drown. After a hard struggle both horse and rider were gotten safely to the other shore.” Bolling Haxall later “swam for his life” when hounds crossed the creek again, and Harry Smith fell off twice, breaking his foot. The hounds finally lost in high wind.

The Great Hound Match of 1905 brought fashionable society, with their horses and hampers, to northern Virginia in droves. It also helped establish the area as prime hunt country.

The six couple of Grafton hounds, hunted by Smith, got their own back at the fourth hunt. They jumped a fox after trailing for an hour, then blazed through another 1 1/2 hours, losing all but nine of the 28-horse field in their sizzling pace. There were seven falls as the field attempted to keep up, and “Mrs. Tom Peirce of Boston, one of the best riders to hounds in America soiled her hunting coat when her gray hunter Tapps put his front feet in a hidden drain.”

Hounds checked at a derelict house, where they “were cast again and again around this old house without success, and finally it was decided that the fox had gone to earth beneath the foundation, and so the hounds were called off,” according to a newspaper report.

The following day, the Middlesex pack of 18 1/2 couple ran a blinder, too, as described by one newspaper: “The English foxhounds of the Middlesex Hunt Club started a red fox in Bald Hill woods, on the Fred farm, this morning, They drove him hard for nearly an hour, and denned him in the Goose Creek bottoms, below the Dudley Farm. It was a smashing run of six miles, with many stiff jumps, and nearly the whole field of 30 riders was well up. Though it was only nine o’clock when Reynard was put to earth, Henry Higginson, Master of Middlesex, decided to let well enough alone, and called off the hunt for the day.”

The reporter also noted: “The fox was tired and laid down in an edge of cover for a moment, but the hounds soon made him understand that he must run for his life. He was too hotly pressed to lay many puzzles as he scurried across the open and down into the Goose Creek bottoms. As he entered the covert the hounds were running on sight. The fox headed straight for an earth he evidently knew and in a few seconds more was safe from the hounds’ fangs snapping impetuously about him.”

This unassuming box at the National Sporting Library contains many original artifacts that make the high drama of the Great Hound Match of 1905 come alive.

The field of 32 riders were able to stay with hounds during the 57-minute run and viewed the fox twice. “The report filed by the judges showed that every one of the 37 hounds were up; the first flight will bear witness that a blanket could not have covered the lot as they pressed into the woods which sheltered the quarry’s refuge,” the Boston Herald‘s reporter wrote.

And as a final feather in Higginson’s cap, one of the judges, James K. Maddux, told the Middlesex Master after the run that “the day had proved a revelation to him as he had no idea English hounds could run so fast and true in the stiff country of Piedmont valley,” the Herald noted.

The following day was Sunday, and the horses, hounds, and huntsmen took a day of rest. So will we, but the story, of course, isn’t quite done yet. Will Harry Worcester Smith’s Grafton pack of American hounds pull off another blistering run, leaving the field in its dust? Will either pack ever catch a fox, the goal they and the judges had set as the ultimate test? Stay tuned.

NSL Dispatches: Yellow Earls and Red Foxes

Reynard

THE stacks of the National Sporting Library continue to yield colorful tales from the hunt field. Today we have anecdotes from two familiar hunting characters known for their color: Hugh Cecil Lowther, the fifth Earl of Lonsdale who was known as “the Yellow Earl,” and the red fox, also known as Reynard.

The Yellow Earl

Hugh Lowther unexpectedly inherited his title as Earl of Lonsdale, and all the riches and lands that came with it, after his older brother St. George died in 1882. At age 25, he had free rein to indulge his love of horses and hunting, and he did, in very fine style, as recounted in Douglas Sutherland’s hugely entertaining biography, The Yellow Earl:

Lonsdale Boxing

“His hunters had to submit to  … rigorous standards: not less than 16 hands, 6 feet round at the girth, and 8 3/4 inches of bone.

“Soon the lavish stabling behind Carlton House Terrace was filled to overflowing and additional accommodation had to be rented in the vast Police stables at Scotland Yard. Barleythorpe, the luxurious twenty-bedroomed hunting-box which Hugh had inherited in Rutland, vied with Squire Abingdon’s stables both in the numbers and the quality of horses he kept there. It was not long, however, before he discovered new and even more extravagant ways of impressing himself on a startled Society. In the days when the fashion for liveried servants and dandified dressing had largely fallen out of vogue, Hugh Lonsdale set a standard of colorful perfection with his turn-outs, which, almost overnight, became one of the sights in London. All the Lonsdale servants were dressed in canary-yellow jackets with dark-blue facings, white beaver hats and white buckskin breeches. …

“His six-inch cigars were specially made to his order, and christened by a gratified toacconist ‘Lonsdales.’ The cigar became almost as much his trademark as the perfect white gardenias which he wore in his buttonhole, and which were sent to him daily regardless of cost wherever he might be.”

The Yellow Earl’s carriages also were a bright yellow. His personal life was equally flashy. Lonsdale had affairs with the actress Lily Langtry and the married stage actress Violet Cameron; the latter situation was deemed scandalous enough that Queen Victoria made it known that Lord Lonsdale should leave England. He went to Canada and embarked on “a 3,000-mile trek across the frozen wastes.” He initially took four springer spaniels and his valet with him, but, fortunately for the spaniels and the servant, Lonsdale sent them back home again when he realized how daunting the Canadian tundra is.

Showy though he was, Lonsdale was an excellent horseman and an expert hound man who held Masterships at the Quorn, Cottesmore, and Woodland Pytchley.

Of his riding:

“Once when he was out hunting with the Quorn he was taking a line of country he had not followed for some time,” reports Sutherland. “Putting his horse at a post-and-rail fence with a shallow ditch at the other side, he was not aware until he was too far committed that another fence, topped with a strand of wire, had been erected a yard on the far side of the dutch. Collecting his horse he cleared the entire obstacle. When it was measured afterwards, the length of the jump was found to be 32 feet.”

Lord Lonsdale's 32-foot jump

Lord Lonsdale had a lot to say about hounds, too, and he was not afraid to advise huntsmen. In 1908, he wrote to the Cottesmore huntsman, Gillson, after the man had been there a year, offering him some tips on relating to the hounds:

“… I should like to see you a little more demonstrative and to converse to your hounds on the way to covert. Noe that you are a professional receiving a salary for hunting them, but that you are glad and pleased and delighted to see them, talking to them as you go to the meet, and showing each one that you take a personal interest in him or her. Speak to them, whistle to them, and let them understand every word and sign. If you are at exercise canter along and stop short, giving some sign by mouth or whistle, and make friends of them  and get off and pat them when they are doing what you want–more can be done this way than in any other, and if you do it continually no whips are needed–pointers, sheep-dogs, retrievers–all animals–are the same–they are all amenable to sound, providing that it is always the same sound or signal. …

“You must talk to your hounds with your mouth inclined towards them, not the back of your head, for your speed through the air reduces the sound by half, so please remember my wish when casting: always wait before cantering away, until your hounds realize that you are about to be off; convey some private signal that they will understand.”

The Red Fox

Much has been written about the wiles of the red fox, and the 19th century sporting writer “Cecil” has some of the best accounts I’ve heard. Two favorites:

“His lordship was informed that that a fox had been seen constantly in a field of turnips on Hatch Warren Farm, and was induced to go in search of him; the hounds had spread all over the field without touching upon him. Not being accustomed to find foxes in such situations, very probably they did not draw well. As the land seemed alive with partridges, it did not appear likely that the fox was there; and Lord Gifford was in the act of taking his horn out of the case to call the hounds away, when the fox jumped up within fifty yards of the spot; a singular instance of concord between the fox and the feathered tribe. …

“I have often known known hounds to run their fox to a certain point with a good scent, and lose him instantaneously, as if he had vanished into ethereal space. On those occasions, it is evident they must have gained some unaccountable place of safety, to which the hounds had not the power of scenting them. I remember hearing of an event which occurred with the justly celebrated Mr. Meynell’s hounds, which shows the great patience, perseverance, talent, and keen-sightedness for which he was so eminently distinguished, and also what extraordinary places foxes will sometimes seek for refuge.

“They were drawing a gorse covert, when a single hound, that could be relied upon, spoke. ‘That will do,’ exclaimed Mr. Meynell; but the hounds could make nothing of it. They were drawn round again to the place where the single hound had spoken; but they could not roust him out. Still persevering, I believe upwards of two hours, the field became impatient, and the greater portion went home. At length, holding a consultation with Raven, his huntsman, he inquired the exact spot where the hound spoke, which was close to a bush that he pointed to.

“‘Then get off and examine it,’ said Mr. Meynell. It was a low bush or stump of a tree which leaned over the gorse, and in which was an old magpie’s nest, where the fox had rolled himself up and was peeping over the side of the nest at the proceedings below.”

Bedtime Stories: A sampler from the NSL stacks

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

IT’S been a busy but very pleasant week of study here at the National Sporting Library in Middleburg, Virginia, where the bookshelves and archive boxes are filled with vivid foxhunting and beagling history.

So for the Bedtime Stories this week from Virginia’s hunt country, we thought we’d present a few of the tales and scenes we’ve found this week.

A huntsman and his memories

Young Jack Molyneux spent most of his life in hunt service in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from about the time he was 12. He got his start riding with his father, who also was a huntsman. In his memoirs, Thirty Years a Hunt Servant, published in 1935, he recalled being a young whipper-in with the Lanarkshire Harriers in Scotland. The pack’s Master at the time was a Colonel Robertson-Aikman:

“They were the smartest pack of hounds I’ve ever seen in all my experience and used to win most of the prizes at Peterborough. Colonel Aikman had an up-to-date model kennel and was a great hound man. … The hounds loved Colonel Aikman, and every Sunday afternoon we walked them down to his home, The Ross, standing about a mile from the kennels. Generally he would return with us. I’ve seen those hounds, after he had gone back some time, leave us, get on his line and go right back to The Ross and find him. This is the only pack I’ve ever seen do this.”

While with the Lanarkshire Harriers, Molyneux also got to try his hand at hunting the hounds one day when kennel-huntsman Sam de Ville was sick. It was a tough introduction to carrying the horn.

Jack Molyneux as a whipper-in at age 18

“A second horseman came with me, and off we set through some big doors on to the road. The doors were carefully shut behind us, and it was a good job they were, as things turned out. Just before we got to Hamilton, the second horseman behind was making such horrible noises (he meant them to be ‘hound talk’) that all the hounds bolted for home. When they got to the doors by the kennels and found them shut, they went on about another mile, with me going racing pace to catch them. I got them stopped and started off again, but this time I made the second horseman go in front and say nothing, so we arrived at the meet. Next day there were a lot of hounds with sore feet, but I dared not tell Sam what had happened.”

The abduction of Trojan

Scrutator, the pen name of the English MFH Knightley William Horlock, wrote a number of books about hounds and hunting in the late 1800s. This bizarre incident is described in his 1865 book Practical Lessons on Hunting and Sporting and reveals, among other things, the lengths some men would go to to get their hands on a good hound’s bloodlines, and the lengths to which they would go to avoid admitting to Welsh blood in the kennels, even when it improved their own hounds and hunting. We, of course, highly favor the woolly Welsh bloodlines, which have been so successful for Iroquois.

“There was an old specimen of the ancient Britons who had a very killing pack of Welsh extraction, which would worm a fox out of the mountain fastnesses, or eat him there and then. Amongst these was a dog named Trojan, the leader of the van. The fame of Trojan had reached the ears of a well-known master of English foxhounds, who resolved to have a look at him, and judge for himself whether the report was true of this dog’s extraordinary prowess. Accordingly, having obtained the necessary information as to the next fixture of the mountaineers, our master of fox-hounds sent a hunter overnight to the nearest village; and Trojan and his master being both ‘peep-o’-day boys,’ he had to get up in the middle of the night to be in readiness–eight o’clock being the hour of meeting even in the winter months. In short, no advantage was considered  unfair by our Welshman to take over his enemy, and the only chance with a Welsh mountain fox is to have at him before he has well digested his supper, or the prospect of getting his brush is exceedingly remote indeed …

One of our noble and leonine woollies, Stalker, now retired through the Hound Welfare Fund

“Well, it so happened that Trojan and his comrades blew up a brace of foxes by about the usual hour of meeting in civilized countries now-a-days; and the English master being perfectly satisfied with his performances as well as figure, not only coveted his neighbor’s goods, but resolved to avail himself of Trojan’s services. But the Saxon, thinking it infra dig. to enter any young hounds on his list as got by Mr W.’s Trojan, effected his purpose in another way. …

“Jack (his whipper-in) went to Taffy’s house and kidnapped old Troojane, as the Welsh call Trojan. It happened in this wise: Jack, the whipper-in, having ascertained the ins and outs of Mr. W’s kennel, dressed as a Welsh drover, taking advantage of the master being mystified as well as his man, one misty evening, whispered through the keyhole of the kennel door to Trojan that a young lady outside wished to see him on very particular business. The gallant old dog stepped out at once, without waiting for a second invitation; and as the language of love is easily understood, whether in Welsh or English, Trojan was inveigled by the Saxon beauty to leave his kith and kin among the moutaineers, and accompany her back to her English home.

“On Trojan being reported missing the next morning, inquiries were set on foot, and search made for the old gentleman in every direction for many days, and even weeks, without avail. And, as Trojan was considered prime minister by his master, advertisements were at last put in the local papers, with a full description of his personalities, offering a reward for his apprehension. By this time, Trojan having served the purpose for which he had been abducted, Jack was instructed by his master to inform Mr. W that a stray hound answering Trojan’s description had found his way to their kennels some weeks previously, and might be had if proved to be the missing animal. A trusty messenger was despatched immediately for the truant, and Trojan returned to his rightful owner, not, however, before he had become the father of a large family, which, to mystify their descent, was represented under a different parentage.”

Furrier, one of foxhunting's great hounds

The great Furrier

George Osbaldeston (1786-1866), better known as Squire Osbaldeston, was lucky enough to own a foxhunting star in Furrier. In his autobiography, he describes how he acquired this hound from the Belvoir when that pack drafted him, even though he was a descendant of the great Hugo Meynell’s powerful breeding program:

“As we hunted five and six days a week, we were obliged to enter 25 couples of young hounds annually, and not having sufficient quarters, even including my own in Yorkshire, for so many, we used to get drafts from Belvoir. The Duke drafted them himself; and I happened to be present on the occasion when Furrier was drafted.

“Looking over the lot in the presence of the kennel feeder, whose name was Jervis, before the Duke arrived, the man pointed out to me a very fine hound indeed. He was black and white. Jervis said, ‘That is the best bred hound in the kennels, but I don’t think his Grace will keep him.’ I asked, ‘Why not?’ and Jervis said, ‘Because his legs are not quite straight.’ I expressed the hope that the Duke would draft the hound, for I saw what a magnificent animal he was; quite perfect in every respect except his legs. Jervis told me that all his sort were generally straight, and he thought this one must have been kept tied up at quarters, which system is the destruction of a great many young hounds every year. I asked how Stormer, as I think he was then called, was bred, and was told that his blood was direct from Mr. Meynell’s best sort. While the Duke was drafting the young hounds I was very anxious, fearing he might keep this one; but luckily he did not, and I got him.

“Furrier turned out a wonder. He was as sensible as any Christian, had not a fault, and when he learned what his duty was, which he did in a very short time, never committed an error. I never saw a hound that could top the fences like him; a gate was nothing to him; he merely touched the top bar; no fence except a bullfinch could stop him; and at the end of the hardest day he came home with his stern up as if he had never been out at all. Almost all his stock followed his example; I never had so good a sort in my life.

“Among the pack I bought from Lord Vernon was a dog hound descended from Lord Yarborough’s sort whose get were as stout as those of Furrier, but had not his other qualities. I mixed them, and certainly the cross turned out marvelously. More than half my pack were Furriers, and Sir Richard Sutton’s were the same. Sir Richard swore by them. Any hounds in other packs which have distinguished themselves are generally to be traced to old Furrier.”