Virginia Hound Show 2012: A big day for Iroquois hounds!

The HAs picking up a trophy at the Virginia Hound Show on Sunday.

What a day for the Iroquois Hunt’s English hounds! The houndbloggers were not in attendance this year at the Virginia Foxhound Show, but we got updates throughout the day from the English ring, where our hounds showed–and we’re pleased to say they brought home some of the silver! The show draws some 800 hounds from across North America, a real feast for the hound lover’s eyes. If you’ve never been, we encourage you to attend next year! For the complete list of results from the 2012 show, click here.

We’ve been following the HA puppies since their birth (and they were born, auspiciously enough, just before Blessing Day in 2010, when the annual Blessing of the Hounds kicks off the formal hunt season). They are sons and daughters of two hounds we imported from the Cottesmore in England, the doghound Hawkeye and the bitch Baffle, who also is the dam of our much-vaunted BA litter. The HAs have matured into an exceptionally regal group, and the houndbloggers had high hopes for this pride of young lions, who will join the hunting pack this coming fall.

Hawkeye (left) and his sons in the class they won, English stallion hound and three of his get. Photo by Nancy Milburn Kleck Equine-Sporting Artist.

Perhaps the most notable victory of the day was Hawkeye’s in the class for stallion hound and three get. Shown alongside his sons Halo, Hawksbridge, and Hanbury in front of judge Henry Berkeley from the Berkeley Hunt, Hawkeye scooped the trophy from a highly competitive class that also featured Live Oak Maximus, the Virginia Foxhound Show’s grand champion foxhound back in 2010, just a few months before the HAs were whelped. Hawkeye’s win is a big thumbs-up for the Iroquois Hunt’s breeding program, which already has seen success from the BA litter, Baffle’s first for us, on the hunt field.

Baffle and the HA pups back in the day.

Some of the hounds and volunteers taking pre-show exercise Sunday at Morven Park, scene of the prestigious Virginia Foxhound Show.

We’ll have to wait until fall to see how the HA puppies perform on the hunt field, but here’s how they did in Virginia:

Halo won his single doghound-unentered class. Hanbury was third in this class.

Halo and Hanbury came back to win the couple of dogs-unentered class, and Hardboot and Hawksbridge finished second to them.

HaloHawksbridgeHardboot, and Hanbury, all unentered, won their two couple of doghounds-entered or unentered class.

Thanks to his victory in the unentered doghound class, Halo moved on to the unentered championship against the day’s top unentered bitch and placed second, making him the show’s reserve champion unentered hound.

A bath before the big day.

To see the HAs cover some ground, see the video below, taken in January at Boone Valley. A video from February is here.

Another winner at Virginia was Samson, our entered red-and-white doghound who is a big asset on the hunt field and the sire of our new BO litter out of Bonsai. He won his English stallion hound class, then came back to place third with Edie in the junior handlers’ class! We think Samson’s puppywalker in England, Nina Camm, will be especially thrilled with that news! To see Samson’s baby pictures that she sent us, click here.  To see our adventures bringing the very talkative Samson and Hawkeye with us by air from England (where they hunted with the Cottesmore) to Kentucky, click here. Yes, it was worth it!

The likeable red-and-white Samson, photographed in 2010.

In the afternoon’s bitch classes, another member of the HA litter, Hackle, finished second in the unentered bitch class, and Havoc finished third. This pair of Hackle and Havoc also finished second in the couple of bitches-unentered class. Dragonfly, a North Cotswold import and the mother of our famous doghoundasaurus Driver, placed second for the second consecutive year in the brood bitch class. To see a video of her (and the other Iroquois hounds) in action at last year’s Virginia Hound Show, click here. Dragonfly is at about the 2:20 mark.

Another houndblogger favorite, the powerful North Cotswold import Banker, also finished third in his class, the entered doghound class that Samson won.

Dragonfly, Driver’s mother, picked up a second in the English brood bitch class.

Banker at his first meet in Kentucky back in October 2010.

We understand that the Iroquois joint-Masters Jerry Miller and Jack van Nagell, huntsman Lilla Mason, kennel manager Michael Edwards, and the passel of hound volunteers led by Cice Bowers arrived back at the hotel exhausted but understandably pleased with the day’s results.

Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller does the honors. A toast to the Iroquois hounds and their supporters!

We know how much work went into making this day happen, and the hounds’ success was richly deserved. Congratulations, everyone, and safe home!

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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!

Samson’s baby pictures

Cottesmore puppy walker Nina Camm with Samson and friends. Believe it or not, Samson is the light-colored hound in her lap. There's no sign of that red color that's so easy for us to spot now!

LAST year, after we wrote about Samson’s trip to the United States, we got an e-mail from Nina Camm, the woman who was Samson’s puppy-walker in England. She explained that she had always loved Samson and was happy to keep up with his adventures since his departure from the nearby Cottesmore pack. We were delighted to hear from someone who knew Samson “back in the day,” and we asked her if she’d mind sending some baby pictures and any recollections she had. They finally arrived this week, and we are happy to be able to share them.

According to Nina, Samson was born on February 20, 2007, and came to her from Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman’s kennel and April 8 of that year.

“The first picture,” Nina writes, “shows his mates who became his ‘brothers’ whilst at walk with me. From the left is a hunting beagle pup Blenheim, next is the Belvoir foxhound Bellman, then Samson, who at this time was the youngest, and lastly, on the right, is beagle pup Dawlish.”

The thing you’ll notice right off the bat is how much Samson’s color has changed. He was a towheaded youngster, but he’s a redhead now–one of the things that makes him easy to spot on the hunt field. In fact, in his baby picture Samson looks uncannily like our own Mr. Box–maybe this is as a result of hanging around with all those beagles? He grew out of that pale coat color, though. Nina also sent along a sort of high-school-age picture of Samson and pal Bellman, which shows Samson’s coat beginning to darken. “This is when Bellman and Samson had become accustomed to collars and would go off walking around the village with me,” Nina writes.

Belvoir Bellman and Cottesmore Samson walking in England with Nina Camm

“Bellman was born on 10th January 2007, so was that bit older than Samson,” writes Nina. “Bellman had been with me at walk since 9th March 2007, so he, Blenheim, and Dawlish had their feet firmly under the table by the time Samson arrived. All four slept, ate, and played together.”

Here is Samson today, so you can see how much his coat color has changed.

Samson, as photographed by Dave Traxler in December 2010.

Nina also sent along a picture of the Cottesmore’s puppy show program, which showed Samson’s name. “Sadly, Samson didn’t come in the top three, but I never worry too much about that,” she wrote to us. “As long as they hunt, I always think.”

Nina shouldn’t worry about that. Since arriving in the U.S., Samson has been a real asset to the Iroquois pack. Kennel manager Michael Edwards reports that Samson is outgoing and friendly to the people who work with him now, and Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason has been tremendously pleased with the red-and-white hound.

“He’s such a hard-working hound, and he’s invaluable,” Lilla said. “He always has his nose down. He’s quick to straighten out a line, and when they make a lose he’s often the hardest-working hound. He’s a leader to the puppies, for sure, because when he’s working hard they emulate that. He’s a top-notch hound.

Samson in profile. Dave Traxler photo.

“It’s quite a bit different hunting coyotes than hunting foxes, and you wonder how hounds will do when they come here and the quarry switches. To come to a different country where the smells are different, and where we have raccoons and skunks and different animals and trees and grass, I think it can take them time. Jerry was very complimentary of Samson when he hunted him last year, and this year I’ve really clicked with him. He loves hunting coyotes.

“We’re considering using him as a stallion hound, which is a compliment in our pack, because we only breed one litter a year.

“I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve been hunting the hounds, I’ve said, ‘Thank you, Neil!'” she added. “Because Samson is just a heck of a hound, and I’m so happy he was drafted to us. I really appreciate that Neil did that. The Cottesmore bloodlines have proven themselves to be superb on coyote. Coyotes run so much farther than foxes, and when you look down after a six-mile point, who’s there? Those hounds with Cottesmore bloodlines.”

When Samson is pensioned from the working pack, he’ll live out the rest of his days in happy and dignified retirement under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund. (By the way, our 2011 fundraising dinner and auction are coming up in March–watch this space!)

“If I won the lottery, I would be on the first flight over to see him and give him a massive hug,” Nina writes. “I know for certain he would still remember me, but until then please give him a big hug and kiss.”

Will do, Nina!

A break for a short film!

I know I said the next post would be about Dr. Stanley Gehrt’s MFHA seminar presentation on urban coyotes, but then this cropped up on the FrogDog Blog, via our friends at the Pet Connection blog. It’s a short video of an English dog show in the 1930s, filmed for British Pathe at the Richmond Dog show. How many hound breeds do you count? Not to mention the fox terrier puppies!

See the video here–it’s well worth the click!–and there are other neat dog-related old films on the same site, for your enjoyment.

Houndbloggers Abroad: A Royal Artillery meet

The Royal Artillery hounds with professional huntsman Rob Moffat at the March 24 meet.

ANY trip that starts off with hounds has to be good! Not long after we landed in England, we attended a meet of the Royal Artillery Hunt, Britain’s last surviving military foxhound pack.

The Royal Artillery Hunt is unusual in many ways, most notably for its hunt country. Most people, when thinking about English foxhunting, conjure up images of the rolling grasslands and terrifying five-foot hedges that Leicestershire’s fashionable hunts face on their fast runs. But the Royal Artillery hunts (within the law as decreed since the hunt ban of 2005, so they now drag hunt) across Salisbury Plain (for one photo, see here, though this doesn’t do full justice to the plain’s amazing sweep and great beauty). That presents an altogether different set of challenges for horse and rider.

Salisbury Plain appears, from a distance, innocently simple to cross. It is vast and, though a plain, it has quite a few gentle rises that just beg you to gallop up them. (Its most famous feature, incidentally, is Stonehenge, which once was a regular meet for the RA hounds!) The plain’s openness makes it a great place to watch hounds, and the hunt country’s description at the Master of Fox Hounds Association website makes it sound uncomplicated enough: “There is very little jumping: there are always ways round any fences. It is a good country for seeing hounds work, with few of the problems generally encountered in modern hunting. Sport is varied; there are some good long runs of up to ten miles unimpeded by roads, railways, wire or urban sprawl. Any horse, young or old, would enjoy a day on Salisbury Plain. The RA Hunt is run on military lines and is an exceptionally friendly hunt with a jolly atmosphere. Fields average up to 60 on a Saturday and up to 30 on Wednesday.”

The RA hounds were interested in the stirrup cup.

But the 300 square mile Salisbury Plain also is a military training ground, and once you ride out on it, you begin to realize just how tricky it can be for the unwary! What the MFHA site doesn’t tell you is that you will occasionally gallop around a bend to find a tank or two in your path. There are horse-eating slit trenches dug into the ground here and there. Part of the hunt country passes a mock village used to train troops in house-to-house combat.  And the tank tracks can be a foot deep and extremely awkward to cross if you don’t know the trick to it, which is to always, always take them on the diagonal, and never try to cross them on the perpendicular. Children are almost always welcome to join the hunt, but not, the hunt says somewhat ominously, “on days of military activity.” You get the idea.

For more general information on Salisbury Plain, click here.

The Royal Artilery hounds. You’ll notice a few that are slightly woolly, but most are smooth-coated.

Once you’re over your initial surprise at the unusual conditions, you settle in to a great day of hound-watching. Despite the military activity, including regular firing pratice, the vast plain is full of wildlife, including red foxes, badgers, and the great bustard, a large bird. It also has some farmland, and so there’s a lot to see. And Salisbury Plain is truly beautiful, changing colors with the seasons and as cloud and sun pass overhead. Definitely worth a trip.

A handsome pair in conversation at the Royal Artillery meet.

A note about the gray horse you see in the picture above. We’ve bumped into him before–and photographed him–on our last trip to England, when we visited a horse trials at Larkhill, a racecourse and fixture for the RA hounds. That day, he was ridden by an officer in the horse trials, and on this day he was taken hunting by another officer. The horse’s name is Ollie, and we recognized him easily, because he is missing his left eye–not that that stops him from leading a highly active life as one of the Royal Artilery saddle club’s mounts!

The saddle club provides an excellent opportunity for soldiers to learn to ride or to continue riding, and there are lots of chances for them to compete, too, in local events. It’s a great feature that undoubtedly has helped introduce more people to the joys of a day behind hounds.

Let's gooooooo!

One of the RA hounds makes the rounds at the meet

You’ll also notice that the hunstman and Masters of the RA Hunt wear green coats, instead of scarlet. This is a nod to the pack’s history as a harrier pack; the staff and Masters of harrier packs, as well as of beagles, traditionally wear green coats, and the RA have kept that tradition even after switching to foxhounds in 1946.

The RA hunt staff wear green as a nod to the RA Hunt's history as a harrier pack. The RA changed its pack to foxhounds in 1946.

Some of the RA pack's woollier members.

We will have video from this meet, including hounds’ voices and the huntsman blowing his horn to gather start off from the meet, on Wednesday when we are back in Kentucky.

Food for thought …

To no one’s surprise, yes, I have been hunting the fertile ground of England’s second-hand bookstores again! As always, Mr. McGregor’s shop and the Heads’  sporting bookstore yielded treasures. From McGregor’s (better known by its formal name of d’Arcy Books, in Devizes), this great quote from Lord Willoughby de Broke’s The Sport of Our Ancetsors:

“When a highly-bred pack of Foxhounds have been running full cry for nineteen minutes and come to a check, the first thing they do is to quarter the ground and fling themselves this way and that, all with heads down, and some with hackles up, to recover the scent. There is nothing more beautiful and wonderful that this in the whole of Fox-hunting. Any mere human being in a red coat who tries to correct animal instinct at sublime moments like these, by makng a noise on a copper instrument, is at once a Philistine and a fool–a Philistine to try his hand on what nature is doing for him so much more artistically than he can do it for himself; a fool because no good pack of Foxhounds would take th slightest notice of him if it were anything like a scenting day.”

And speaking of copper instruments …

Next week we’ll also have a little video of the Cheffins auction at which the great 19th century huntsman Will Goodall’s horn was sold for £2600.  Sellers Denise and James Davies of Zimbabwe were delighted with the price but confessed to having mixed feelings about the sale.

James and Denise Davies (left and right), sellers of Will Goodall's hunting horn this week, with a houndblogger in the middle

The Davieses, like the houndbloggers, feel certain that the horn did indeed belong to Will o’ Belvoir, the subject of Lord Henry Bentinck’s classic hunting treatise “Goodall’s Practice,” and they are committed to trying to solve the greatest mystery of all: how the horn got from Goodall’s home at Belvoir Kennels in England after his death in 1859 to an auction house near Harare, Zimbabwe, some 150 years later.

Bedtime Stories: Siegfried Sassoon

Trudy asleep

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

“Ringwell cubbing days are among my happiest memories. Those mornings now reappear in my mind, lively and freshly painted by the sunshine of an autumn which made amends for the rainy weeks which had washed away the summer. Four days a week we were up before daylight. I had heard the snoring stable-hands roll out of bed with yawns and grumblings, and they were out and about before the reticent Henry came into my room with a candle and a jug of warm water. (How Henry managed to get up was a mystery.) Any old clothes were good enough for cubbing, and I was very soon downstairs in the stuffy little living room, where Denis had an apparatus for boiling eggs. While they were bubbling he put the cocoa-powder in the cups, two careful spoonfuls each, and not a grain more. A third spoonful was unthinkable.

“Not many minutes afterwards we were out by the range of loose-boxes under the rustling trees, with quiet stars overhead and scarcely a hint of morning. In the kennels the two packs were baying at one another from their separate yards, and as soon as Denis had gotten his horse from the gruff white-coated head-groom, a gate released the hounds–twenty-five or thirty couple of them, and all very much on their toes. Out they streamed like a flood of water, throwing their tongues and spreading away in all directions with waving sterns, as though they had never been out in the world before. Even then I used to feel the strangeness of the scene with its sharp exuberance of unkennelled energy. Will’s hearty voice and the crack of his whip stood out above the clamour and commotion which surged around Denis and his horse. Then, without any apparent lull or interruption, the whirl-pool became a well-regulated torrent flowing through the gate-way into the road, along which the sound of hooves receded with a purposeful clip-clopping. Whereupon I hoisted myself onto an unknown horse–usually an excited one–and set off higgledy-piggledy along the road to catch them up. Sometimes we had as many as twelve miles to go, but more often we were at the meet in less than an hour.”

From Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon (1928)