A memorial, things to ponder, and a puppy Smilebox

Brownell and Bear, as captured by their close friend Debbie Jackson, on Thanksgiving Day 2007. We love you, Brownell, and we will miss your gallant partner, too.

WE begin on a sad note. The houndbloggers wish to send condolences to Iroquois Field Master Brownell Alexander Clark on the recent loss of her close friend, that most gallant field hunter Bear. We hope to write a fuller tribute to this brilliant and kind gentleman in the coming weeks, but, for now, we think there can be no better tribute than this beautiful photograph taken by Iroquois member Debbie Jackson. It’s the perfect image and says everything there is to say about Brownell and her Bear: impeccable, elegant, sporting, joyous, entirely at ease in the natural world, and in absolute harmony with each other, the ideal partnership.

Of hunters and habitat

The Associated Press printed this worrying statement this week in an article: “Hunting’s popularity has waned across much of the country as housing tracts replace forests, aging hunters hang up their guns, and kids plop down in front of Facebook rather than venture outside.”

Hunting with hounds depends on countryside and wildlife preservation--and on the generosity of landowners to keep their country open and undeveloped

Whatever your views on deer and dove hunting, or indeed other forms of hunting not involving horses and hounds, the loss of land is a major concern for foxhunters, too. And as the hunting population dwindles, more land could be under threat for development, which means loss of wildlife habitat and, in turn, loss of wildlife. So all those kids who are tuned in to Facebook might never get a chance to see a fox, unless it is scavenging among their families’ trash cans. And loss of habitat affects not just game animals like foxes and coyotes; it also takes out everything from field mice to herons to bears. From the AP article:

“‘As paradoxical as it may seem, if hunting were to disappear, a large amount of the funding that goes to restore all sorts of wildlife habitat, game and nongame species alike, would disappear,’ said Steve Sanetti, National Shooting Sports Foundation President.

“Hunting generates billions in retail sales and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into government conservation efforts annual through license sales and federal taxes on firearms an ammunition sales.”

On horseback and in the country, not in front of a TV or computer screen! Some of the young riders pose with huntsman Lilla Mason at a children's meet this year at Iroquois.

As the story points out, hunting is still a pastime–or, in times of deep recession, a necessity to put food on the table–for millions of Americans. But as suburbs encroach, hunters age, and outdoor life slips lower on citizens’ list of activities, the implications for all outdoor sports are alarming. In Pennsylvania, hunting license sales have dropped 20 percent in the last 20 years. One of the effects? The state game commission has had to trim its pheasant repopulation program.

Nature lovers, hunters, conservationists, and family farmers should be natural allies in the effort to preserve natural habitat and the wildlife that live there. Because, as Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman Gerald Feaser told the AP, “Whole farms turned into housing developments or shopping malls. Once that land is lost, you can’t get it back.”

Yoicks, indeed

Did you know that Manhattan was a foxhunting center for 70 years? It’s true, according to a great old story the houndbloggers found in a 1941 edition of The New Yorker magazine. The short piece featured an interview with J. Blan van Urk, author of the two-volume set “The Story of American Foxhunting.” Volume I was published in 1941, prompting The New Yorker‘s visit to van Urk’s apartment in the Dryden Hotel on 39th Street. Van Urk explained that foxhunting was a craze in the Big Apple between 1750 and 1820.

From the resulting story:

“The town was absolutely foxhunting mad in those days,” he said enthusiastically. …

In those days, the greater part of Manhattan, with the exception of a few rustic villages uptown, consisted of marshes, grassy valleys, and wooded uplands, with a few orchards and cleared fields here and there–ideal coursing country.  Foxes were indigenous to the island, and you could pretty well count on starting one on the upper West Side. The big, highly organized hunts–the three biggest were the St. George, the Colonial, and the Belvidere–often set out from Cato’s Inn, which stood in what is now East 54th Street, two hundred feet east of Third Avenue. It was famous for its food, brandy, and Havana cigars.”

A local fox. Can anyone remind me who sent this wonderful photograph in? UPDATE: Thank you, Nancy Clinkinbeard! Nancy reminds us that she sent in this photograph, which was taken by Doug Watkins.

It is here that we must mournfully report that bagged foxes were commonly turned out at Cato’s Inn, a deplorable practice that rightly is considered unsporting and, well, shameful. Tsk, tsk, tsk on Manhattan’s early foxhunters!

The magazine reporter asked van Urk how he thought an old-fashioned Manhattan run might have gone, assuming it started in the East 50s, and here was van Urk’s answer:

“Naturally,” he said, “the fox wouldn’t head for the river. He’d head over toward the Waldorf-Astoria and Rockefeller Center. If he turned north, he’d have a choice of three or four courses in the rocks and hollows of what is now Central Park. If he turned south, he might find temporary sanctuary in the Inclenburg Woods, which covered Murray Hill then. Routed from there, he might skirt the edge of Sunfish Pond, now occupied by the Vanderbilt Hotel, and head for the woods of West 42nd Street, going through the fur-and-garment district.”

That’s pretty ironic. Or daring. Van Urk continued:

“A stouthearted fox might go south along Fifth Avenue, through Greenwich Village, and all the way down to Canal Street before he was caught.”

Or not caught, if he found a nice place to go to ground. Today, of course, finding any place to go to ground would be more difficult, owing to the vast amount of urban concrete in today’s Manhattan. What was it we were just reading about land preservation?

Puppies, puppies, puppies!

Meanwhile, back at the kennel … Baffle and Hawkeye’s puppies are growing! They’re also exploring everything in their nursery, as you can tell from the collection of photos here by the intrepid amateur photographer Dave Traxler. These photos were taken on Dec. 5. Is there anything better for the holiday season than warm, wiggly puppies? No, I didn’t think so!

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We’ll continue to keep you up to date as the puppies grow and as their training progresses. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, everyone!

Bedtime Stories: J. Otho Paget

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

From Paget’s Hunting (1900):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houndbloggers Abroad: An autumn miscellany

Good grief, is that the time?

The houndbloggers have been overtaken by fall events, starting with the Keeneland September sale and planning for a Champagne reception at the Iroquois kennels (which we were unable to attend but hear was a success–when is Veuve Clicquot not a success?), and then heading back to Wiltshire.

It seems like a long time since we’ve seen the hounds, sadly, but we have at least been able to keep in touch with hounds in news and literature while in England. 

Hounds on the job

Country Life magazine, for example, featured Hector the Bloodhound in its “Best of British” column. We don’t have a picture of Hector, but you can entertain yourself with this one of our old friend Ulpian the Wrinkly, who appeared in a 1914 edition of the magazine, while we briefly detail some of Hector’s work, as described in a more recent Country Life:

The magnificently wrinkly Ulpian the British bloodhound

Hector has been working in the Sussex Police Dog Unit for four years now alongside PC Steve Williams, and he is the only bloodhound currently employed for “scent-discrimination work,” according to Country Life.  When he’s not on the job, he’s at home with Williams. When he is on the job, he sounds pretty amazing.

“First we go to the missing person’s house and find a scent article particular to them–this could be anything from clothing worn next to the skin to a pillowcase,” Williams explains. “Just 15 to 20 seconds is all Hector needs with the item to hunt that scent alone.”

The ensuing hunt can vary in length (their longest so far was three miles), but Hector sounds as if he was good at it from the start. In his first assingment, Williams recalled for the article, “we had to find a 12-year-old boy who had consumed a liter of vodka in a town center. Police searched for three hours to locate the boy before calling on Hector, who found him 20 minutes later in an alleyway behind a dustbin. The boy recovered after a night in hospital.”

If you’re thinking that the alcoholic fumes should have tipped everyone off, including Hector, remember that vodka has no odor.

Fancy Dress

Baily's Hunting Directories

We were fortunate to meet up on this trip with the editor of Baily’s, hunting’s Bible and one of the houndbloggers’ favorite things to read. Peter Brook is excellent company and a wealth of information, and so are the Baily’s directories. Mr. Houndblogger has given me a 1924-1925 directory to add to our collection, and we found this interesting description of the Hampshire Hunt’s evening dress in it:

“Blue coat, white waistcoat, black cloth knee breeches, black silk stockings, gilt buckles on breeches and shoes.”

Fancy, eh? And no wonder, given the hunt’s illustrious history, as also described in its Baily’s entry: “The H.H. dates from about 1745, when Mr. Evelyn hunted the country, with kennels at Armsworth. In 1788, the Prince of Wales, while residing at Kempshott, kept staghounds, which in 1793 were turned into foxhounds, hunting most of the northern portion of the present H.H. country.”

Baily’s entries are a very thorough guide for the foxhunter of the day, frequently going so far as to recommend particular types of horse for each hunt’s country. The Newmarket and Thurlow’s entry, to cite just one, opines that “the most suitable horse is a short-legged, compact, deep back-ribbed one, with bone and as much blood as is possible in this class of hunter.”

Advice to hunt by

Not surprisingly, while in England the houndbloggers have spent much of their time in bookstores.

Sporting treasures, these from John and Judith Head's shop in Salisbury

While we’re most interested in older sporting tomes, we do occasionally find a new hunting book we like. This trip, our choice among new books is The Keen Foxhunter’s Miscellany, compiled by Peter Holt.  It’s a wonderful sampling of sayings from and about foxhunting–not all of it flattering!–and in it we found some typically sage advice from one of our favorite authors, D. W. E. Brock MFH, who wrote mostly in the 1920s and ’30s. With cubhunting season barely two weeks away, we thought we’d quote his list of tips for the novice, as it appears in the new miscellany. It originally ran in his book The Young Foxhunter in 1936:

  • Never crack your whip.
  • Never flick at a hound with your whip.
  • Remember that your hunt has not bought a monopoly of the roads and lanes.
  • Remember that the hunt only crosses the farmers’ land by their courtesy.
  • Remember that you are not the only person out hunting.
  • Obey the Master’s wishes immediately and implicitly.

  • When hounds are drawing, keep behind and as close to the field master as you can get.
  • When hounds go away with a fox, never cut off the tail hounds from the main body.
  • Do not press on hounds at any time, especially during the early stages of a hunt.
  • Never ride between the huntsman and his hounds.

  • Stand still and keep quiet when hounds check.
  • When you meet hounds always turn your horse’s head towards them.
  • If your horse kicks, put a red ribbon on its tail, but do not trust to that alone to keep you out of trouble.
  • Learn to open and catch gates.
  • If someone dismounts to open a gate, no one must go beyond him until he is on his horse again.
  • Concentration is essential if you want to keep with hounds.
  • A sound take-off is the first essential when selecting your place at a fence.
  • A black, strong-looking fence is much safer than a weak, straggly one.

Another bit of Brock also appears in Holt’s slim Miscellany, and we’ll leave you with that. It’s the recipe for “the perfect hunting sandwich,” in case you were wondering:

“Hunting sandwiches differ from all other sandwiches in that they are eaten under vastly more rigorous conditions, and they should be prepared with that in view. They should be so cut, formed and packed that they can be enjoyed even though eaten upon the back of a runaway mustang, in a hurricane of wind and cold rain, by a man who has recently broken his right wrist.”

 On that note, we’ll leave you for now, with good wishes for your preparations for the new season!

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!