The Eider has landed!

Clear Creek Beagles Eider says a fond farewell to his best friend, Jean MacLean.

TONIGHT the houndbloggers are welcoming the newest resident of Beagle House, Clear Creek Beagles Eider. We think he’s probably some sort of cousin to Mr. Box, and in any case we know that both descend from the CCB’s great Major. Eider, now about two-and-a-half years old, started his hunting career last year with the Clear Creek beagle pack. We ran into him again this year at the end of November, when we went out beagling with Clear Creek Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman and whipper-in Jean MacLean. There, I’m afraid, Eider did not acquit himself very well. There were deer involved. And a lot of not leaving off their trail. And quite a bit of not coming when called. And called. And called.

Eider and Clear Creek Beagles Master and huntsman Buck Wiseman say au revoir.

And so it was, with great regret, that Buck determined that Eider–although he was a great character in the kennel and Jean’s favorite hound (she had raised and loved him from a pup)–needed a new home. Enter the houndbloggers.

Eider arrived this afternoon, on the very same day, it happened, that we also brought home our most ridiculous purchase to date: an early-1920s Victor Victrola wind-up phonograph. Yes, it was a folly, but who, I ask you, can really resist the delight of winding up a record player and then, as a reward, hearing it scratch out the tuneful strains of “With You” by Waring’s Pennsylvanians or the stirring fox trot “That Night in Araby” by Edwin J. McEnelly’s Orchestra?

Eider's eyes lit up when he heard the victrola!

(In case you’re wondering, we bought ours from Brian Gorrell at the Athens School antique show. He very kindly and enthusiastically explained all the technical stuff to us, about loud needles and soft needles, how to change them, and other interesting and useful things.)

Eider settles in for a good chew in his new home.

So far, Eider is settling in quickly and comfortably. Harry is disappointed that Eider, like the hound puppies who visited,  is not a minion (“I am sure I ordered minions,” says Harry). But otherwise things are fine. Eider likes Nylabones, biscuits, the dog beds by the fireplace, and, oops, my woolly clogs (or, okay, how about these paddock boots?), and my home office (an Emporium of Potential Toys!). He is not yet sure about leashes or walks in the ‘burbs, but he’s happy to be with the rest of the Beagle House pack. It will take him a little time to get used to the new routine now that he’s retired from hunting in the Clear Creek pack, but, if Mr. Box is any indication, it won’t take very long.

We’ll keep you posted!

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When the puppies came to visit

"This is MY house, and you are under my command," explained Harry when hound puppies came to visit. "Here, you must swear an oath of loyalty to me and pay me tributes in many delicious biscuits."

It turns out there are limits to Harry's authority, after all.

Autumn’s in the air

The hounds with huntsman Lilla Mason on their Aug. 26 walk.

DID you catch a whiff of it this morning, too? The faint scent of autumn? The houndbloggers did. I love the smell of autumn. It reminds me that, no matter how miserably hot the summer, cooler weather–and hunt season–are right around the corner.

Cool temperatures also sharpen the hounds’ senses. They’re also fitter, and the puppies (Driver and the BA litter, all just over one year old), who have yet to join the pack out hunting, are getting clued in to the fact that there’s a point to all this training they’ve had on summer walk. By the way, they seem to be asking now that the air is cooler and morning scents are stronger, what’s that delicious smell?

“The challenge today is that it’s cool and the ground’s really moist,” Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason said. “The whips need to be on their toes to see if any of the hounds put their noses down. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if a puppy puts his nose down, but if you get some of the older hounds putting their noses down, you better watch out.”

A keen, fit pack of hounds plus cool air plus scent lines could equal chaos. The Iroquois hounds are keen, all right, but they were remarkably relaxed when the houndbloggers joined them on summer walk this morning. Their lessons about cattle also seem to be sticking. On Wednesday, Lilla brought 17 couple out for hound walk only to discover an entire herd of cattle had crowded up to the front of the field where she walks the  hounds.

“Cattle were stretched everywhere,” kennel manager Michael Edwards said. “Calves, mamas, bulls. Calves were running all over the pace, and these hounds were unbelievably good.”

Everything, at this point, can provide a good lesson for hounds that are almost ready to hunt–especially for the puppies, who are nearing their debuts with the working pack this fall. When two young women accompanying the hound walk on horseback began chatting, Lilla pointed out that the extra voices–while not ideal in the hunt field–could be useful today.

“They’ll have to get used to that in the hunt field,” Lilla said of the hounds. “They have to learn to distinguish my voice from other chatter.”

The hounds rushed into the pond, eager to play in the own waves and catch the biscuits Lilla threw to them. Paper, now an old hand at summer training, simply stood and waited for a biscuit to come his way.

"Toss a biscuit over here, please," says Paper.

“They’re ready to hunt,” Lilla said. “There’s not much else I can teach them on hound walk. They’ve learned to stay behind when I need them to, they’ve learned to stay with me. We’ve hit lines on certain days and gotten them off those and settled back down again. You can see that they’ll trot off and then turn around and check on where I am. I’m still carrying biscuits, but I’m not using them very much.

“They’re really on schedule,” she added. “Kind of ahead a schedule, really. We’re still working on a few little things. For example, when I say ‘Come behind,’ Bangle and Bandstand still shoot ahead. It isn’t a big deal, but I do need to fix those kinds of things. Out hunting, if I’m trotting toward a coop and say, ‘Come behind,’ if they get ahead I can’t jump the coop. They might get hurt. So I need to keep working with them on that.”

Lilla believes one reason the hounds stay so relaxed out walking even at this energizing time of year, is because the Iroquois kennel provides a lot of turnout. The hounds give themselves plenty of exercise in the 15-acre fenced paddock adjacent to their kennel, and even that has offered some unexpected training.

Three deer, Lilla explains, have taken to jumping into the hounds’ turnout pen. That gives the hounds more opportunity to get used to –and ignore–deer and their scent, and it seems to be working, because the deer keep jumping in. That’s a sign they don’t feel threatened by the hounds, which means the hounds aren’t pursuing them.

Pats all around from huntsman Lilla Mason and kennel manager Michael Edwards as the group pauses at Cormac's Elbow.

This seems a good time to get an update on Driver, whose first hound walk we remember so vividly! How has he progressed since June? There have been some surprises about this pupposaurus, Lilla tells us.

“He’s doing well, but he’s gotten shy a couple of times,” she explained. “One time we had to walk by some work trucks, and he was shy about that. I hope that was just because he was exposed to a new thing where he normally walks and that the shyness is something he’ll get over. But it’s something for the whips to keep in the back of their minds when we start hunting, to make sure nothing happens to make him scared or that, if he gets scared, he doesn’t get left behind, or something like that.

“That’s what the summer is for, to file away little personality traits or issues that might surface later and cause a problem,” she added.

Samson and Barman

This hound walk also marked the return of two much-loved English characters, Samson and Barman. Both haven been off in recent months due to health issues. Samson, whom you probably will remember very well as the opinionated traveler, had a tumor removed from his right hind leg back in February and looks to be back in good form. No doubt he’ll be glad to get back to hunting! Last season, despite his imperious style at the airport, Samson turned out to be a surprisingly laid-back hound who also helped another import, Strawberry, figure out the new surroundings shortly after their arrival from England.

Red-and-white Samson

Barman was taken out of the hunting pack after having a seizure and is now doing very well on the anti-seizure medication phenobarbital. Fortunately, both phenobarbital and potassium bromide–the two treatments of choice for seizures in dogs–are both highly effective and relatively inexpensive.

Barman, one of the kennel's Big Men on Campus.

Phenobarbital is something the houndbloggers know a little bit about, thanks to our late king of the household and his successor, Felix and Harry. Felix had epilepsy, and Harry, too, has had seizures regularly; in both dogs, the seizures were controllable by one or the other medication at a very doable price.

We’re very glad to see two of our most personable hounds, Samson and Barman, back at work!

Bedtime Stories: Guy Wheeler

In his charming book The Year ‘Round, Guy Wheeler takes the reader through a foxhunter’s calendar. It makes for comforting reading. When you’re suffering through a heat wave in mid-July and hunt season seems impossibly far away, it’s nice to open The Year ‘Round to the chapter titled “November: The Opening Meet,” where the description will keep you going in the certainty that there will indeed be cool weather and another opening meet. It’s also nice to read about the month you’re in and know that you are on a schedule that foxhunters have followed for many, many a year, making you part of the continuum.

As we’re on the brink of August and our hours among hounds have been taken up with summer walk, we present “August: Still Earlier Mornings.”

“If in mid-summer you think you, or with the approach of cub-hunting, your horse, could do with a little exertion to help dissipate what Mr. Delme Radcliffe MFH calls ‘inside fat,’ I can think of no better advice than to suggest that you ask permission to accompany hounds on exercise.

“You can exercise hounds on foot, on a horse or on a bicycle; that is, of course, you are on the bicycle or horse–hounds have difficulty reaching the pedals.

“The form is first to ask the Master. He will say–

‘Yes, of course. Delighted if you would help. I can’t get out as often as I would like. Will you see Tom about it?’–and leave the rest up to you.

“The next step is to go to the kennels. Tom, the kennel-huntsman, will say–‘Very happy to have you come along, sir. We’ll be walking ’em out tomorrow morning if you care to come to kennels at five, sir?’

‘Walking out? On foot? At five?’ You try to say all this nonchalantly, as though you expected it. …

“There you are at five in the morning, standing by the grass yard gate, in a gentle, warm drizzle, wondering how you are going to stay awake at the rather pompous dinner party in the evening. Confidentially, that is the least of your worries. Just remember to say to your hostess as soon as possible after your arrival and loudly enough for everyone else to hear–‘Sorry if I seem dull tonight, I was out exercising hounds at five this morning.’ That will explain everything, including falling asleep in your soup; but remember to say it before you do; it doesn’t sound nearly so effective through a table napkin soggy with Vrown Windsor. …

“Back to the yard gate. There you stand watching the hounds circling, playing, rolling, galloping hither and yon and rearing up against the wire fence shouting at you to hurry and let them out.

“Your cap is down over your eyes, your hands are deep in your pockets and your shoulders hunched against the weather. You think of the warm bed you have left. The drizzle oozes over your fourth vertebra.

“Tom comes bustling round the corner of the fence. Ben, the second whip, strides down the yard. Their cheery alertness shames you out of your misery and you try to look more alive than you feel.

“‘If you’ll just stand over there,sir,’ says Tom. ‘They’ll come out a bit sharp like, so you don’t want to bein their way. Right, Ben. Let ’em on.’

“Ben pushes his way through the hounds. ‘Get back, Marvel! Get back, Somerset, get back will you! How the hell d’you think I’m going to open the gate with your fat backside in the way. Get back! You, too, Thrasher. Get on out of it.’

“He heaves the gate open against the weight of the close-packed hounds and out they pour, squeezing, shoving, leaping over one another in a tumble of tan, white, and black. Most rush over to where Tom stands, calling them quietly by name as they surge round him. Some swing over to have a look at you, more out of curiosity than courtesy. …

“Though my memory is the despair of my associates, I have never had any difficulty in learning and remembering the names of hounds. The first and easiest feature for recognition is, of course, the colour. But many hounds share the same pattern of colour, so this means can often be misleading particularly at a distance. The trick, I was taught, is to study the way the hounds moves and carries itself; and to learn how it speaks. It fascinates me how when, with a minor gale blowing and the width of a thick wood between them, a huntsman will listen to a solitary hound speak faintly once and say–‘That damn Sextant! What he’s babbling on about I’m sure I don’t know. And he don’t neither, I warrant you!’ or, on the other hand–

‘Hark to old Counsellor there!’ A pause, and the hound speaks again more insistently. ‘Counsellor’s got it! Hark to Counsellor! Hark to Counsellor, all of you!’

–and be right both times.

From a summer hound walk: The Day of the Decoy. Photo by Eloise Penn.

“… It comes from a real love for hounds and understanding of how they think. This is not learned from the study of pedigrees and books on hound management, but by being with and observing hounds in kennel and out at exercise. One never learns exactly how any hound will behave in the hunting field this way; but one will get a very good idea. For those who ride to hunt there is no better way of increasing your enjoyment of a day’s hunting than by this sort of knowledge of the hounds you follow. And such acquaintance enables you, in times of crisis and a divided pack, to offer valuable help to th ehunt staff.

“However, there you are striding alongside Tom behind the hounds, feeling a touch better now that you are on the move, and your instruction begins.

“‘Now this bitch here by me is Silence, entered last season and done well, she did. Bit light you’d say and her neck’s on the short side too. Statesman there, you can always tell him by the white line between his shoulders, he’s out of the same litter; and so’s Stamper, him with the black saddle, he’s a good sort. Takes after his sire old Pageant up in front there. Always in front those two, Pageant and Paragon. Good hunting hounds those two, sir, go all day they will; they’re the devil to stop when you want to. They’re by Blankly Chaplain out of our Parasol, that old dark bitch what’s getting under your feet there; get on, Parasol girl!–can’t abide roads, she can’t, sir, her feet’s none too good, poor old girl, but get her on grass and she ruddy flies.’

“And so on. At the end of the exercise your head is full, so to speak, of Parasol’s feet, Stampers saddle, and Silence’s short neck and you wonder if you will ever get them straight. You find yourself looking forward to the next time you are invited to be at the kennels at five in the morning and wondering why it was all so difficult earlier.”

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!


Well, shoot

ICE BOX didn’t win the Belmont Stakes, much to our Mr. Box‘s disappointment. He finished ninth (but was placed eighth due to Uptowncharlybrown’s DQ to last) in a race that, as our Mr. Box had feared, showed little early pace.

Mr. Box and the Beagle House hounds are a musical lot, and, to express their woe, they have dedicated a special singing of the blues to the equine Ice Box, the defeated Belmont favorite. We wish the hard-running colt much luck in his next race and hope he will turn the tables in the Travers at Saratoga in August!

In case you are wondering, Harry is the lead vocal in the Beagle House Trio. Our Mr. Box contributes both harmony and percussion at various points, and the final “whoot” at the end is his solo.

Notes from the curio cabinet

Tulips at Beagle House: one good thing about spring. But does it make up for the end of hunt season?

WE have mixed feelings about spring. Sure, it’s great to be done with icy footing, frozen-out hunt meets, and high heating bills. It’s good to see the sun again. It’s even better to have daylight after 4 p.m.!

But it also means another hunt season has ended. In spring, we swap hunting for houndwalking and our own personal hunt stories for those in sporting books.

Needless to say, there’s less news at the moment than there is during hunt season, so today we offer a selection of notes on recent happenings as well as some to come.

The MFHA biennial seminar this weekend!

The U.S. Master of Fox Hounds Association will hold its biennial hunt staff seminar in Lexington, Kentucky, this weekend. There’s a lot of interesting stuff on the agenda. Iroquois huntsman and hound blog contributor Lilla Mason will be on one panel with five other young huntsmen, discussing their work with the hounds on the hunt field. Coyote expert Dr. Stanley Gehrt will give a talk about “Wiley Coyote.” And there’s more, including a kennel visit to the Iroquois Hunt kennels and the Hound Welfare Fund. By the way, if you haven’t seen it  before, check out the MFHA website’s gorgeous introductory slide show.

There are stunning pictures of hounds, coyotes, foxes, and horses. My favorite part is the excellent audio: hounds in full cry, the horn, and the sometimes eerie echoes of huntsmen calling to hounds. It’s a fine way to recall the past hunt season. Incidentally, the very first picture is of the Iroquois Hunt’s Blessing of the Hounds from a few years ago. That’s Lilla being blessed, and the photo was taken by hunt member and former Iroquois president Harkey Edwards.

The Goodall Horn at auction

At long last, here’s our video from auction at Cheffins in Cambridge, England, where Will Goodall’s hunting horn sold for 2,600 pounds. To learn more about the horn and the remarkable story of the couple who found it in Zimbabwe, click here and here.

Sellers James and Denise Davies say they remain convinced, at least until further evidence to the contrary, that the horn belonged to Will Goodall of Belvoir Kennels, not to his son, Will Goodall of the Pytchley. We wonder what the buyer thinks? If we find out, we’ll let you know!

Dog days

And not just any days: birthdays (or what we consider birthdays). Spring is the season for all of the Beagle House hounds to celebrate their adoption days. Harry, the wickedest beagle in the universe, joined the family on April 30, 2003.  That was before I knew how bad he is; at this very money (that was a Freudian typo. I meant “moment”; can you tell I have a vet bill due?), he is sneaking by my desk with a contraband paper towel he plucked from the trash can. We adopted Tobermory Icebox, the former Clear Creek beagle, on March 27, 2005. And the most recent addition, Bingo, arrived on May 9, 2009.

Mr. Box is now seven years old!

Here’s another kind of Dog Day, and it’s hound-related. You don’t get to see Scottish deerhound puppies terribly often, but, man, are they ever cute. Pet Connection blogger Christie Keith took her new puppy, Rawley, to visit an office the other day, and the resulting photographs are cute (surprise!). See more of Rawley, including video, here and here. He’s about 12 weeks old, which gives you some idea of how big a Scottish deerhound will turn out to be full grown. Isn’t he beautiful?