Outfoxed: The Story of Hunting in Britain

This morning our Facebook friends at Fox Hunt directed our attention to a BBC Radio 4 broadcast about the history of British hunting and how it has changed since the ban. It’s written and narrated by Dr. Emma Griffin, whom the houndbloggers met in October 2010 at the National Sporting Library’s very interesting symposium on the origins and evolution of hunting and sporting dog breeds. Griffin, a social historian, also is the author of Blood Sport: Hunting in Britain since 1066.

The new radio piece is available here. PLEASE NOTE: It is only available for seven days, according to the BBC website, so listen soon!

Griffin’s very interesting and evocative BBC Radio 4 piece features one of our favorite historic hunts: the Banwen Miners Hunt in Wales, which at one time kept its hounds in the lamp-room of the local colliery in Banwen, before the mine closed. The houndbloggers were so engrossed that we forgot to mark the exact beginning of the part about the Banwen Miners, but I believe it starts at about the 16- or 17-minute mark. In the course of the 28-minute piece, Griffin visits the Beaufort Hunt and the Blencathra Foxhounds who hunt the fells of Cumbria, as well as the Banwen Miners. Also in the radio piece: beautiful horn and hound sounds, a lovely rendition of “John Peel,” and an interview with a “hunt monitors” leader. Well worth a listen!

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Foxes and “foxes”

Red fox, by Rob Lee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

The Royal Artillery “Fox”

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

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

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

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

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

The Year That Was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an excerpt:

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

Click here to see the complete report.

Peterborough foxhound show: The video!

Ringside scenes from the world’s most important show for working pack hounds! Thanks for your patience!

To see Part One of our coverage, click here. Two see Part Two, click here.

The show’s modern foxhound results are here. Old English foxhound results are here.

And the houndbloggers offer many hearty thanks to Creative Commons, the Free Music Archive, and composers Kevin MacLeod and Jonah Dempcy for use of their wonderful music.

Houndbloggers Abroad: Peterborough, part two

To read Part One, click here.

To see the modern foxhound results from the show, click here.

To see Old English foxhound results, click here.

Old English hounds leave the ring at Peterborough

AS the houndbloggers roved from ring to ring at England’s Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show, we were reminded of the great variety to be found among working hounds. We were looking at hounds for our own enjoyment, of course, but for the huntsmen and Masters on hand for this most famous of hound shows, spotting quality working hounds is very serious business. The show ring, of course, only tells part of the story; the real proof comes on the hunt field.

Awaiting a harrier class at Peterborough's indoor arena

Some hounds get an early green llight for breeding. After the Heythrop Hunt‘s Mellow ’10 won the bitch championship over North Cotswold‘s Bobtail ’10, Heythrop joint-MFH Richard Sumner delightedly proclaimed that her showing days are over. “She’ll be having babies next,” he told Horse & Hound. Mellow left the show ring with a bundle of laurels: she starting winning at home in the Heythrop’s puppy show, then took top unentered bitch honors at Peterborough last season. This year, she swept bitch titles at the South of England and Great Yorkshire hound shows before arriving at Peterborough to win again.

The bassets–along with the beagles, bloodhounds, harriers, and draghounds–also showed in the indoor arena.

The ST Carlow line

Thoughts of hound breeding prompted the houndbloggers to ask North Cotswold joint-MFH and huntsman Nigel Peel about a bloodline that has contributed to our own pack at Iroquois, the famed ST line from Ireland’s Carlow Hunt. The bloodline was famously difficult to import from the Emerald Isle, thanks to the formidable hound breeder and keeper of the ST flame, Olive Hall, who made Irish hunts pledge not to export any of the hounds she gave them.

Otter and mink hounds: the woolliest of the woolly!

But the bloodline eventually made its way to England when Capt. Brian Fanshawe was able to import a couple of puppies out of Carlow Stylish ’63 to the Warwickshire. He eventually brought the line to both the North Cotswold and the Cottesmore, where he also was Master and huntsman, and it is from those two hunts that the Iroquois Hunt got its ST lines.

Describing the STs, Fanshawe once said, “They are terribly easy to handle, nearly like pet dogs. They need plenty of hunting, but they are biddable, and they have what Sir Peter Farquhar called ‘fox sense.'”

Some spectators

As current MFH and huntsman at the North Cotswold, Nigel Peel has had great experience with the ST line, whose descendants include the hunt’s great Peterborough bitch champion Grapefruit, dam of our excellent late stallion hound Grundy ’98. Ringside in the main foxhound arena, we asked Peel about the ST line, whose descendants were among North Cotswold hounds showing at Peterborough this year.

“Two of the hounds in our winning two couple class today go back to the ST line,” he said. “There are lines that I think have drive, and they have great drive. And they live for a long time and go on hunting into old age. They don’t collapse, and they tend to have good feet.”

... which proved too hard to resist for one of the houndbloggers! Two new pairs of breeches and Daphne Goodall Machin's excellent biography of huntsmen Stephen and Will Goodall helped our luggage go overweight on the way home!

Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman, like Peel a great friend to the Iroquois Hunt, also had praise for the ST line in an issue of The Field we picked up a few days after the Peterborough show. In it, a group of huntsmen were asked to nominate their “heroic foxhounds,” and Coleman elected two, both hailing from the ST line. As his hero of the past, he elected a woolly, Farmer ’92. Coleman echoed Peel’s observation about ST hounds’ longevity when he pointed out that Farmer hunted into his 10th season.

For his present-day hero–or, rather, heroine–Coleman crowned Farmer’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Cottesmore Stodgy ’05. “She could hunt six days a week and never tire,” he told The Field in its August 2011 issue. “If I were a fox in a hundred-acre field, I wouldn’t want her behind me. The great legacy for me from Captain Fanshawe is the Carlow blood and the North Cotswold ST line. They are always happy and always want to please.”

North Cotswold's Best Brood Bitch, Caroline '08, on the left

Speaking of Neil Coleman, the houndbloggers’ only disappointment at Peterborough was missing the chance to see the Cottesmore hounds show. A few of the hounds were coughing at home, which prevented them from making the trip. They were not alone in this inconvenience: seven hunts missed Peterborough this year due to some degree of coughing.

Big on beagles

There was no problem with numbers in the beagle ring. This year, Peterborough drew 20 packs–a cheering thought if it can be taken as evidence that beagling is prospering in England after the 2005 hunting ban.

It is a sad fact that the houndbloggers did not manage to get a single decent photograph of the beagles! But we did get some video, which we plan to have ready next week. We admit that some of our best video clips were of an amazingly fast and gymnastic rubber ball of a beagle named Pilgrim, who stole our hearts but did not manage to win a ribbon. “Speed and bounce,” apparently, were not uppermost in the beagle judges’ criteria. Neither were “adorable” and “what wonderful spots.” Ours is not to reason why, I suppose.

The foxhounds met up with friends and fans outside Peterborough's show rings

So stay tuned! Next week’s video will include scenes from the beagle, basset, bloodhound, otter and mink hound, AND both the modern and Old English foxhound rings.

Keep your eye on the hound blog next week for our video from Peterborough!

Houndbloggers Abroad: Peterborough, part one

To see the show’s modern foxhound results, click here.

To see the Old English foxhound results, click here.

THEY call summer hound shows the “silly season,” and certainly it is not really the same thing as hunt season. Working pack hounds are bred for the hunt field, not the show ring, after all. But, all the same, showing at the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show is serious business for competitors, and the show offers Masters and huntsmen a great chance to look over potential stallion hounds and examine other hunts’ bloodlines. For the houndbloggers, the 2011 show was the perfect opportunity to see the hound world’s great variety, to eyeball some of the sport’s most prestigious pack members, and to spot some hounds from bloodlines that link with our own Iroquois pack.

A glimpse of Driver’s father

Perhaps the most notable “Iroquois relation” we saw was the Duke of Beaufort’s Gaddesby ’07, sire of our own young dog Driver ’10. We spotted Gaddesby in the Best Stallion Hound class, where, alas, he was unplaced. But we did manage to get a couple of quick snapshots.

Gaddesby '07 in the stallion hound class.

Gaddesby ’07 on the move.

Spot any similarities? Here’s Gaddesby’s son Driver:

Driver after a hunt in March.

Gaddesby’s conqueror in the Stallion Hound class was Duke of Beaufort’s Doynton ’09, who went on to win the Champion Dog Hound title over the Vale of the White Horse’s young dog Ptarmigan ’10.
Peel’s words of wisdom

The Grove and Rufford prepare to enter the ring at Peterborough on July 20. Their dog Stafford, right, won the Best Unentered Dog class.

In the issue of Horse and Hound that came out immediately before the Peterborough show, North Cotswold Master and huntsman Nigel Peel wrote, “Hound shows are wonderful summer gatherings, and it is a great joy to admire the best lookers of the breed. But remember that that is what it is–a beauty competition. Do not get downhearted should your hounds fail to find favor. Remember that you are taking part in a pageant and in so doing you are holding your hunt’s flag high for all to see. … We all get slung out of the ring from time to time, and sometimes it is quite hard to remember that it is the taking part and not the winning that counts.”

Huntsmen wore their prizes on their sleeves.

At Peterborough, as it happened, Peel’s hounds rarely were “slung out of the ring.” The North Cotswold bitches, in particular, had a fantastic day. Bobbin ’10, Bobtail ’10, Gradient ’10, and Gridiron ’10 won the Best Two Couple of Entered Bitches class, while Caroline ’08 was judged Best Brood Bitch. Bobtail went on to finish second, as reserve champion, to Heythrop Mellow ’10 in the Champion Bitch class.

The North Cotswold dog hounds fared well, too, taking the Best Couple of Unentered Hounds class with Gregory and Growler.

The crowd in Peterborough’s main arena, where the modern foxhounds were exhibited.

Remembering the Great Grundy

Having met up with him at the foxhound ring, we took the opportunity to ask Peel about some of the hounds he has sent to Iroquois–most notably our late, great stallion hound and superb coyote hunter Grundy ’98, who died in 2008.

Grundy in October 2006 with Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller

 Grundy was a son of the North Cotswold’s Peterborough winner Grapefruit, and Peel’s reminiscences of Grundy went back another generation, starting with Grapefruit’s own mother.
“Her mother was a very, very good bitch, a wonderful hunter, and Grapefruit we were very lucky with, because she was walked by Charlie Warren, a great North Cotswold puppy walker,” recalled Peel. “He actually had driven the first tank onto the battlefield at Alamein. We had a lovely hound that he had walked the year before that we had won a lot of prizes with, but, sadly, she was poisoned out hunting. Charlie said, ‘I think I’ve got one that might be as good.’ And, by God, he had: that was Grapefruit.
“In her first year here at Peterborough, she won the Best Unentered Bitch, and the following year she won the championship. She was a terrific hunter, like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord, and hated foxes. So we thought we must find her a really good husband. In those days, Tim Unwin was Master of the Cotswold and a very, very fine breeder of hounds and a good huntsman. We used his dog Patron, a gray dog, I remember. That produced Grundy.”

Peterborough isn't only about foxhounds. The show also featured woolly mink and otter hounds (see above), mournful bassets, beautiful beagles, handsome harriers, and lashings of lurchers!

What made Patron the right choice for Grapefruit?
“He was a lovely-looking dog, and he had terrific quality,” Peel said. “He just struck me as being a very good sort of stallion hound to use. And the breeding linked. I always line-breed our hounds, and the breeding fitted in beautifully. So we thought he was the one to have.
“Jerry Miller wanted a dog hound, and we called this whelp Grundy because, when Iroquois was formed, it was named after a horse that won the Derby.

Old English hounds exit the ring after a class at Peterborough.

“Grundy was walked by Charlie Warren, and our chairman at the time was Tim Holland-Martin, who had bred the horse Grundy, who had also won the Derby,” added Peel. “So that’s why we called the hound Grundy, because we thought that it was appropriate. Grundy came to you principally because Jerry Miller wanted a hound or two, and it’s rather difficult to refuse Jerry Miller!”

Peterborough show officials in the foxhound ring.

Peel later saw the hound Grundy in Kentucky, and he was pleased with how he had developed.
“I thought what a very good one he was,” Peel said. “His sisters we had, and we bred from those and we’ve got hounds that go back to them today here at Peterborough.
“I’m really pleased that Grundy did so well, not only in the showing, but also that he was a really first-class dog in his work.”
There’s more to come from our Peterborough report! Stay tuned for more pictures, some video, and more from Nigel Peel.

A few horses, one hound, and high hopes for Peterborough

Photo by Dave Traxler.

ONCE AGAIN, the houndbloggers are going to the dogs. If all goes well, the houndbloggers hope to bring you some pictures from the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show on July 20. Stay tuned!

For an earlier post we did on the 2009 show, click here.

And if we don’t make it there, well … I guess we’ll have to write about something else!

In the meantime, we’d like to turn to the horsey side of hunting for a moment and give you two videos we found this week that provide an interesting point of view on riding–something near and dear to most foxhunters’ hearts. The first is a “helmet cam” video from a point-to-point jockey who gets involved in a very exciting finish!

And the other, also a helmet cam video, provides a horseback tour through the country around Rhosgadfan in Wales, where much of the hunting is on foot and many of the hounds are woolly!

Speaking of Wales, and returning to hounds for a moment, Wales is home to the sad legend of the faithful hound Gelert. This hound, the tale goes, was wrongly killed by his master, who, realizing his mistake, was said never to have smiled again.There’s a monument to the hound and his legend in Beddgelert, not very far from Snowdonia, where, hunting on foot with the astonishing Eryri Hunt, I lasted a grand total of about 47 minutes before nearly passing out from exhaustion, and with torn jeans to boot! Once a harrier pack, the pack now chases only fox and was registered with the MFHA in England in 1976. If you’re ever feeling fit, visit them. The scenery is spectacular, and so is the hunting!

A flying Banker and Big Doings in Lexington

Banker arrives Thursday at the Atlanta airport with a houndblogger to meet Alan Foy.

THE houndbloggers brought a wonderful souvenir home from England last week. Meet Banker, age one year and five months, late of the North Cotswold hounds.

Banker hitched a ride home with us–who could say no to that face?–and will join the Iroquois hunting pack this season.

Accompanying hounds by air isn’t that difficult, although it can have some tribulations (see Samson). Fortunately, Banker was an excellent and relaxed traveler, because we did face some delays on the London end. The North Cotswold’s contact, Freddie, dropped him off at about 6 a.m. at our hotel adjacent to the airport.

A houndblogger awaiting Banker's arrival at the Gatwick hotel

Luckily, most of the airline officials we’ve dealt with when transporting hounds have been very helpful, and we’re fortunate, too, in having good contacts in England to help with any supplies we need to bring a hound over. The night before we travel, we scope out our route through the airport and where we’ll park the hound and crate while checking in, all of which helps the process run more efficiently for the hound. What we can’t anticipate, though, are the vagaries of air travel that everyone has to put up with: delays and cancellations.

Last week, everything appeared to be running like clockwork. But then … a flight cancellation had us cooling our jets, so to speak, in the airport. There was nothing for it but to wait. Banker, having spent some time watching all the legs bustle around his crate in the terminal, just curled up and went to sleep. Good dog!

When we finally did get him (and ourselves) loaded on the plane, it was an uneventful–though long–flight to Atlanta, where Alan Foy met us with the hound truck. Banker’s journey wasn’t over, and neither was ours. From Atlanta, it was a six-hour drive back to Lexington.

Banker gets a lift at the Atlanta airport

Laid-back Banker didn’t mind a bit. He got some dinner and a bucket of fresh water, and he rode in style in the back of the enormous hound truck, whose bed area has been converted into a large hound box. It’s bedded with lots of warm, dry straw, and Samson happily snoozed, waking up to eat and wag his tail when we made stops.

So now we’ll have a Banker and a Banknote (she’s one of the BA litter that will be joining the working pack for the first time this season). Now, as one of the houndbloggers quipped on a punch-drunk drive home from Atlanta, all we need is a hound named Bailout!

Welcome to America, Banker!

Once back in Lexington, the houndbloggers HAD to check out the World Equestrian Games. This world championship event takes place every four years and attracts horses and riders from all over the world; this year, it’s being held in North America for the first time. Saturday, Oct. 2, was the cross-country eventing day. We’re big fans of former racehorse, now three-day eventing star Courageous Comet and his rider Becky Holder, and getting to see him compete at WEG was a draw in itself (and we were crushed to learn this morning that, after throwing a shoe early on the cross-country course, third-placed Courageous Comet was withdrawn after Sunday morning’s jog in advance of that day’s stadium jumping competition, the final and deciding part of the eventing competition; to see his outstanding cross-country run, even minus the shoe, click here). So we trooped out to the Kentucky Horse Park. We’re glad we did. We cheered for Courageous Comet at what Rolex Three-Day Event-goers will know as the Head of the Lake, temporarily named the Land Between the Lakes for WEG. This multi-fence obstacle is probably the prettiest one on the cross-country course, and it drew the biggest crowd.

The crowd at WEG's Land Between the Lakes, fence 17.

A competitor gallops out of the Land Between the Lakes combination.

Personally, we love this fence. But there are 27 others! We toodled around here and there …

Okay, that just looks big.

Some of the cross-country jumps were whimsical, like the Fallen Dueling Tree, which included a squirrel, snail, and acorn. The horses jumped between the snail and the acorn:

Not every horse on the grounds was competing in the cross-country event. We saw police horses on the job …

… and some of the showjumpers warming up on the flat for the coming week’s competition.

These competitors are part of the Austrian (red) and South African (green) teams

Some equine athletes weren’t present, but they were there in spirit:

And some of the vehicles weren’t even horses at all. One of our favorites was a golf cart sporting the British flag and a helpful reminder to the driver on the dashboard:

Mexican supporters were a little less understated in showing their national colors via golf cart:

There’s even more to do at the World Equestrian Games than watch the competitions. The Equine Village and trade fair feature many exhibitions, demonstrations, and opportunities to shed some cash. Walking through the various displays, we came upon a few unusual and unexpected sights.

Who knew the Kingdom of Bahrain was so small and portable?

This French fan had a hairy take on the day's events. How did we know he was French?

That's how!

Many fans brought out their flags …

And a few, like these Dutch fans, went a little farther:

If all the colorful crowds were too much for you, how about a drink?

Speaking of dietary staples, there were also these frozen ice cream balls. Officially, they were called Dippin’ Dots, but I like Mr. Houndblogger’s name for them: Weird in a Cup.

Styrofoam ice cream, anyone? The alarming Dippin' Dots.

For the record, the houndbloggers don’t recommend them.

While we were out on the cross-country course, the jump crew was putting up the fences for Sunday’s stadium jumping, the final part of the three-day competition. Ever wonder what a baby jump looks like before it grows into a full-sized stadium obstacle? Pretty much like this:

Stadium jump sproutlets.

The thing we missed most of all? Dogs. Due to veterinary restrictions, dogs are banned from attending WEG. As we walked around the cross-country course, we noted how strange it seemed to be at the Kentucky Horse Park and not see dogs. They’re a regular feature, and in fact one of our favorite parts, of the Rolex event. But we did see this guy. I think he thought he was going to be attending the Warthog Eventing Games, poor fellow.

At least it looked like he was having fun, anyway!