The Hat of Shame and other news

YOU know what they say about the best-laid plans. One of the houndbloggers had a plan that went well agley, as the poet said, at a recent meet. Well, it wasn’t so much the plan as the hound truck that went agley, right into a post.

When one is riding around in the hound truck, one feels as if one ought to help. So it was that when kennel manager Michael Edwards, collecting a hound at the end of the day just off a two-lane country road, asked one of the houndbloggers to please back the hound truck into position so he could safely load the hound, that houndblogger snapped to attention and did her best. Mr. Houndblogger is blameless in this; at the time, he was miles away, babysitting the house hounds. It should be said here that I am short, and the truck is tall. I should also point out that a dually is considerably wider than, for example, our faithful Tercel (the legendary Jeeves) or even our other faithful car, the Tucson named Brabinger (featured in this post).

In my attempt to back the hound truck into the side road where Michael stood waiting with the hound, I might not have done the Very Best Possible job of wrestling the truck into position for optimal hound-loading. There might have been a stone pillar involved. It could be that there is now a dent, perhaps even a significant dent, marring the beauty of the otherwise very lovely hound truck. Now, in his own defense, Michael was trying heroically to direct me from the ground, and I did hear him say, “Turn your wheel all the way to the left,” but I missed the part about “Whoa! Whoa! WHOA!” until I heard the CRRRUNCH that usually signifies that it is too late. I did, at least, hear that.

*Sigh*

Here is the result of the houndblogger-pillar-hound truck combination:

The Dent.

Now, when you do something as egregious as running the back end of the hound truck into a pillar, there’s really only one thing you can do to make up for it. Actually two things. One is to write a check to the Hound Welfare Fund and hope the hounds forgive you for messing up their nice ride. The other is to wear the Hat of Shame, which at least brings a smile back to the faces of the hunt staff.

The Hat of Shame takes a little explaining. In theory, it sounds like a good idea, which is probably why someone who shall remain nameless, we’ll call her Lilla, decided to order it in the first place. It’s a cowboy hat that is also a riding helmet. Again, this sounds great: a truly safe cowboy hat.

But then you put it on.

And then you see the problem. It. Is. Weirdly. Huge.

 

Yes, that’s why they call it the Hat of Shame.

I think there’s a reason that this hat is non-returnable. Besides, it will come in handy the next time some other hapless hound follower puts a dent in the hound truck.

An Eider Update

Beagle House’s newest resident, Clear Creek Beagles Eider, is settling in well to civilian life. His biggest accomplishment to date: learning how to climb and descend the Notched Hill. We don’t like to laugh at any of the house hounds, but, really, it was pretty comical to watch poor young Eider galumph up and down the stairs–once he figured out that was what they were for, that is. The first night he was here, we carried him up to bed, and the next morning we carried him down again for breakfast. I know, I know, but we did.

His worst stairs experience had nothing to do with going up or down–at least not on purpose. He was lying across the top of the stairs, relaxing happily, but then, inexplicably, decided to roll over. This was not advisable, because instead of rolling away from the stairs, he rolled toward them–and promptly rolled down them, having, apparently, forgotten that they were there. I didn’t see this, but Mr. Houndblogger reported that Eider righted himself about halfway down but then had too  much momentum going and, instead of making it to his feet, belly-slid down to the bottom. Once he came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, he popped right up on his feet and stood blinking at the Notched Hill perplexedly. Fortunately, he was no worse for the experience.

 

Mr. Box demonstrates the fearsomeness of the Notched Hill.

Eider is learning a lot of other things, too, mainly along the lines of what are and are not toys. Eider’s favorite toys are the remains of several plush rabbits, rope chews, and an oversized tennis ball. Eider’s favorite non-toys are the garden hose, any sock, my Dansko clogs, the front doormat, my horse’s old martingale, the saddle pads stacked on my saddle rack, and any of the dog bowls. Pajamas are good, too.

Hooray for Hounds!

We noted with pleasure that Hickory, a Scottish deerhound, won Best in Show at Westminster last night. Congratulations, Hickory!

UPDATE TO ADD: One of Hickory’s co-owners, Dr. Scott Dove, is an honorary whipper-in at the Old Dominion Hounds, according to a story at Foxhunting Life!

You can watch Westminster’s video of the hound group judging on their site at http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/ . A beagle, incidentally, was second to the deerhound in the hound group.

For more nice pictures of the hound herself, visit our friends at Pet Connection. Their contributor Christie Keith has a Deerhound named Rawley, so she was understandably happy with the result.

The result was all the more special because it marked the second time in three years that a hound has won Best in Show at Westminster. In 2008, the winner was the 15-inch beagle Uno. You can watch his Best in Show win–the complete class–here.

Pups on the March

The new HA puppies test the waters at Brookfield on their first hound walk Saturday. Gene and Christine Baker photo.

THERE was a break in the weather last weekend, and that meant the houndbloggers finally were able to get out and see some hounds again! Is it just us, or were people kind of giddy about being back outside in some sunshine again? It felt strange and liberating to unfold ourselves out of the traditional mid-winter hunch and go out walking instead of, say, snow-shoveling.

The last day of January is an unusual time for a hound walk; those usually take place in the summer, as you can see from our posts and videos in June, July, and August. But on Saturday we got a chance to tag along with four of Baffle’s second litter of Iroquois puppies, known as “the HAs” because their names, to recognize their sire Hawkeye, will all start with the letters HA. The HA litter were born at the end of October, so they’re about four months old now.

They were joined on the walk by Magic, an eight- or nine-month-old who came to us from the Live Oak hounds; in the video below, she’s the larger hound with a light honey coloring. Also along for the walk were three of the HA puppies’ older half-siblings, Bandstand, Bashful, and Bangle, and retiree Saddle.

The hounds weren’t the only “new entry” out enjoying the wide world. Wells Pfister also was making her debut. Wells is the daughter or Iroquois members Knox and Matt Pfister and granddaughter of Iroquois Hunt joint-Master Jack van Nagell and his wife, field secretary Betsy van Nagell.

Iroquois joint-Master Jack van Nagell (center, green coat) hosted the puppy walkers at Brookfield farm--and provided some warming port before we set off! Gene Baker photo.

The van Nagells hosted the hound walk and provided a warming stirrup cup–or, I guess, walking cup–before we stuffed our pockets with dog biscuits and set off across the pastures, the puppies bouncing along with us.

To the amateur eye, two things were remarkable. First, the puppies’ confidence. They were a happy lot and just as exuberant as you’d expect puppies to be, but, in addition, they were not afraid to roam away from their human chaperones and follow the older hounds off to examine the pasture’s many curiosities.

Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason with the HA puppies and some of the hunting hounds at Brookfield. Gene and Christine Baker photo.

Second, they were already highly responsive both to the older hounds’ lead and to people, cheerfully returning to the group after their more distant explorations. Naturally, it didn’t take long for them to realize that the people walking with them were Good Things who readily rewarded the puppies with biscuits and pats when they came to them.

As you can see in the video, the puppies enjoyed learning more about their world, and they didn’t appear spooked by anything they found: creeks, ditches, a livestock feeder.

The HA puppies got a chance to tag along--and learn from--some of their older counterparts on Saturday's walk.

The walk also provided a good chance to see hound-to-hound teaching in action, as the puppies followed the older hounds, clearly picking up on what they did–the first budding of what you can see later when young hounds join the hunt field and rely on their older packmates to show them the ropes.

Baby Wells Pfister, here with mom Knox (sporting a Hound Welfare fund cap!), was on her first hound-walk, too, and came away with some puppy kisses.

I think it’s fair to say that a good day was had by all. Certainly, the puppies had a good time–and slept well afterwards, as this photo, taken by Lilla on her phone, shows:

Sweet dreams for some contented puppies! Photo by Lilla Mason.

And speaking of the hunt field, on Sunday the houndbloggers got out with hounds again, this time for actual sport, before wintry weather returned. Next up, we’ll have some updates from that day, including the story of our young friend Paper’s complete transformation from Playper the Class Clown to serious working hound!

Hound of the Day: Dragonfly

WEDNESDAY dawned chilly, with the season’s first light frost and thin fog here and there. A perfect morning to start the houndbloggers’ hunting season! We missed the first hunt of the informal cubhunting season on Oct. 2 in order to attend the World Equestrian Games, and we were glad to be back out again in the hound truck with Michael Edwards, the Iroquois kennel manager and a road whip for the hunt.

Huntsman Lilla Mason, on the bay horse, and joint-Master Jerry Miller discuss the morning's strategy with the whippers-in at Wednesday's meet. Iroquois joint-Master Dr. Jack van Nagell is visible to the left and behind Lilla, mounted on a gray horse.

The fog gave way to golden sunlight as hounds met at Foxtrot. Wednesday’s pack marked the debut of several of the year-old puppies, including Driver (whose mother, Dragonfly also hunted Wednesday and is our hound of the day!). Lilla opted to introduce the 10 puppies in small groups rather than all at once, and Driver had been angry not to be chosen in the first group of three that went out on Oct. 2. According to Lilla and Michael, he threw a bit of a tantrum over being left behind, flinging himself against his kennel gate and howling his disappointment.

Dragonfly's son Driver, second from right, was glad to make his debut.

So Wednesday was a day of great excitement for Driver and Bangle, also hunting for her first time, as well as for the houndbloggers. We feel as if we’ve been too long away from the hounds, and it was good to see them again.

It was also a day of lessons for Driver and the BA litter puppies who are brand-new to the chase.

If anticipation has a sound, this is it. These are the hounds waiting to get off their hound trailer at the meet. As Michael prepared to unload them, they followed his every move. This video also includes some distant footage of a coyote we spotted mousing in the afternoon after scent had all but burned away.

Speaking of the heat, it’s worth noting the scent conditions. After a very wet spring, we have had drought conditions for the last half of the summer. If you’ve been watching the World Equestrian Games, you can see the frizzled, brown grass around and get some idea of the Sahara conditions after a rainless nine weeks in the Bluegrass country!

The wet early spring produced thick, scrubby coverts, but the drought and temperatures heading back into the 80s (is it really October?) mean there’s almost no scent to speak of.

Last year, curiously, we had much the same weather pattern, and when cubhunting season rolled around, it seemed as if there were no game at all. In retrospect, here’s what we think happened: in the hot, dry autumn weather, coyotes figured out that, under such poor scenting conditions, they could lie low in the thick coverts. Instead of running out in the open across the fields, they could simply creep from covert to covert with less fear than usual of raising a strong scent for hounds to pick up.

“Early in the season, what you really want is for the hounds to stay in the covert that you’re drawing until you move on to the next covert,” Lilla explained. “Otherwise, puppies will get left behind or hounds will get into another covert and possibly get on a run before puppies even have time to honor the cry.”

To help keeps hounds in covert, Lilla asks the whippers-in to surround the covert. That way, when a hound–particularly a puppy–pops out of the covert and sees a whipper-in, it’s more likely to return to or stay near the covert rather than independently move off to the next one. The whippers-in stationed around the covert also serve as extra sets of eyes on the huntsman’s behalf.

A stirrup cup always adds a little cheer!

“I had two and a half couple of puppies out,” Lilla said. “That’s not that many, but when you try to put them in corn for the first time, it’s not very inviting to them. You have to rely on the older hounds to convince the puppies. So I stood there for a while. I had two first-time puppies, Driver and Bangle, with me. They stuck their noses in the corn, but there were thorns and things, and at first they decided, ‘No, I don’t think so,’ and they stayed with me. But then the older hounds started speaking, and suddenly they wanted to go in the corn. That was great. The older hounds’ voices draw the puppies into the corn, and then they want to stay in there, because they get excited about the fun going on there.

“Corn is a good way to teach puppies to draw a covert, but in some corn fields there can be weeds and thorns and things in there, too. But they get in there, and they follow the other hounds and hear the other hounds. It can make for good training.”

Backfire: keen as mustard

Hounds spoke in the corn, and the coyote ran around and around, and then joint-Master Jerry Miller spotted six couple of hounds running the line into the Cabin Covert.

“So I moved the rest of them into the Cabin Covert,” Lilla said. “They spoke there, and then a coyote was viewed away from the east end of the Cabin Covert.”

In the rising heat and dry conditions, the scent did not stick around for long, and the hounds cast themselves back into the corn in some beautiful hound work. They screamed off again in the corn, but lost once again. They cast themselves north and east toward the Silo Pond Covert, but with no success this time.

At this time of year and in these dry conditions, and given what the coyotes are doing–lying low in the thickest scrub–it’s more advantages out to cast those areas, because that’s where game is. So Lilla headed south with the pack toward one of the thickest, biggest, most inviting coverts in the area: Murphy’s Covert. Her plan: cast the hounds there in hopes of recovering the line.

All muscle: Dragonfly training at home before placing second in her class at the Virginia Hound Show this summer.

The grass on the way to Murphy’s Covert was tall, obscuring her view, and as she rode on, Jerry radioed again with a crucial piece of information: Dragonfly, with a few older hounds not far away from her, was behind Lilla and feathering madly–a sign that she had picked up scent. Dragonfly and these hounds, it appeared, had made a U-turn in the high grass and were working back north toward the Cabin Covert again, while Lilla, with the young hounds, was heading south.

No sooner had Jerry told this than Lilla heard a wonderful sound: Dragonfly’s voice, behind her.

“She opened up,” Lilla said. “Everybody immediately honored her, and I thought, ‘Well, I can count on that,’ and I encouraged the hounds with me to join her.”

Banker, recently arrived from the North Cotswold in England, got his first experience of the Kentucky countryside at the Foxtrot meet.

Lilla’s decision to count on Dragonfly proved wise. Dragonfly, an import last year from the North Cotswold in England, knew what she was doing. Lilla put her faith with this hound who had hunted only fox in England and smelled her first coyote just last year.

“Dragonfly was just screaming, and off they went again,” Lilla said. “You know, coyotes will do that. They’ll get behind you a lot. And Dragonfly was smart. I think she’ll really beginning to figure out coyotes. She turned around and went back, toward the direction we’d already come from, and a lot of the older hounds were with her. Most of the hounds that were with me that I was taking to Murphy’s Covert were younger, and that made me think I should go back to see. And, yes, she was right.

“That’s why you count on old hounds like that. They call it fox sense. Well, Dragonfly’s got coyote sense now. She might not have last year, but she sure does this year, and she showed it to me Wednesday.”

Goodbye, moles: Bangle on the move.

So how about Driver? How did he do on his first hunt?

“Driver and Bangle, it was their first day out, and so they didn’t want to go in the corn, and they were happy just to stay with me,” Lilla said. “When hounds spoke in the corn, they went in. But every time the hounds would quit speaking Driver would come out and start lollygagging about. Betsy, our field secretary, was standing out by herself, and she told me that Driver came galloping by her, as if he thought he’d just go off and explore on his own, maybe put his nose down and start investigating things.”

We’ve seen him do that early in his houndwalking days this summer, too.

“But suddenly Driver noticed her there on her horse, and she said he stopped as if he was startled to find her there. She got on the radio and told one of the whips he was over there. A whip came to get him back to the pack, and she said he glared at her, like he was saying, ‘You told on me, I know you did.’

Driver (center) back in April.

“His immaturity showed that day. We’ll bring him out every hunt day. Paper was the same way, if you remember. He would sort of play and pick up garbage, but then once the hounds started speaking he was always there.”

And Bangle?

“She got a little intimidated by all the horses, and at one point she got behind all the horses and couldn’t catch up to me. So I asked both fields to stop and I rode back there and got her eye and brought her forward. After that, she figured it out and knew not to get in back with the horses but to stay in front of them.”

Here’s another interesting side note about Bangle’s development. She might finally be outgrowing her mole hobby. Some people have a passion for fly-fishing, antique-collecting, or vintage cars. For Bangle, it was all about moles. It’s easy to see the appeal: they’re sniffable, they’re small and soft, and they probably make a pretty good snack if you dig down far enough to catch one before a whipper-in shows up to break up the party.

Yuck.

On hound walks, Bangle would slip away from the group and pull up to her favorite pasture for some digging–something the whippers-in and houndwalk volunteers quickly learned to anticipate and head off whenever possible. Because once Bangle was in her mole field, she was planning to be there as long as it took to find every single mole. (To see video of Bangle on summer walk–but no moles!–click the play button below)

But, on Wednesday, Lilla said, “I think Bangle is finally saying goodbye to the moles.”

I think we can all agree this is good news for both the hunt and the moles.

“On Wednesday, I saw her digging in a mole hole, and then the hounds went on past her,” Lilla continued. “She looked up at the hounds, looked at the mole hole, then looked up at the hounds again. She took a last look at the mole hole, and then said, ‘I think … I think I’m going to go with … the hounds.'”

Good call, Bangle!

The star pupil at the moment: Backfire. We’d all been eager to see this handsome guy out on the hunt field, because he seemed so sharp even on hound walk in his early days integrating with the pack. He seemed precocious, and now it looks like that initial impression is bearing out.

“Backfire is really turning on,” Lilla said of Backfire after his second hunt. “He’s learned to honor cry, he’s very quick to cry, he’s just alert. Hyper-alert. The minute he hears something, he’s over there to find out about it. It’s not like he just stands and cocks his head trying to decide what to do. He automatically does it. He still doesn’t know what his nose is, but he is really enjoying this. It’s like he’s thinking, ‘This glove fits. I can do this!’ He’s just crisp and sharp.”

Conclusion: “It was just a great day.”

Next up … More oddities and some great marathon driving from the World Equestrian Games!

HWF auction artist spotlight: Hazel Morgan

This oil painting on board by English artist Hazel Morgan is part of the Hound Welfare Fund benefit auction on March 20.

The first in a series of profiles showcasing artists who have donated their own work in support of the Hound Welfare Fund. The art featured here will be auctioned on March 20 at the HWF’s dinner and auction in Lexington, Kentucky. For information on how to bid, contact coakford@aaa-alliedgroup.com.

ENGLISH artist Hazel Morgan lives about a mile and a half from the Wilton Hunt kennels, and the hounds there are frequent models for her work. Even when she’s not painting them, the Wilton hounds are a daily feature of her life. She passes the kennel on the way to and from her children’s school.

“The hounds are always either coming back from exercise or out in their paddocks, and it’s lovely,” Morgan said.

Morgan has been painting almost as long as she’s been riding, and the two pursuits were always entwined. She got her first commission–a portrait of a dog–at age 16 through contacts she made while a groom at high-level British three-day events like Badminton and Burghley. As more portrait requests came in, the teenage artist found her painting was a good way to help support her horses. By age 27, her career had taken off to the point that Morgan was able to become a full-time artist.

Morgan’s elegant and moving portraits–of horses, hounds, and humans–have brought her international acclaim, as well as commissions from prominent racehorse owners on both sides of the Atlantic. She visited the States on a working trip about five years ago, when Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky commissioned her to paint portraits of their mares and foals. She’s also painted at quite a few hunts, even taking her sketchbook along in the saddle in order to record horses and hounds in action. The mid-Devon, Devon and Somerset Staghounds, and a number of others have hosted Morgan and her easel.

Morgan has gotten most of her training in the school of life by riding, hunting, and spending time among horses and hounds. But she also attended and taught at an Italian portraiture academy.

“I was used to working from moving animals, and to suddenly have a person sitting still in front of me meant that I could paint very fast and easily,” she said.

Morgan says she paints, on average, several hunting or racing paintings, a couple of portraits, and two or three paintings of her own. “I’m always moving among those fields: hunting, racing, and portraits,” she explained.

Morgan’s luminous paintings are growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. The key to her success? Simple. “I’m painting what I love,” she said.

For more information about Hazel Morgan and to see more of her art, visit her website.

Hazel Morgan’s painting shown above will be among the art on offer March 20 at the Hound Welfare Fund annual benefit dinner and auction. For more information about the event and/or how to bid, contact Christopher Oakford at coakford@aaa-alliedgroup.com.

Great stuff from the vault

House hounds on the stairs

The house hounds in their observation post

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

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

Bingo: Happy, happy, happy!

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

Here are a few of our favorite rediscoveries.

Weaver’s New Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He got so good that Stipe entered Weaver in competitions.

And he won.

All of them.

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

Good save, Stipes!

Snow Dog and other glorious videos

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

Also in the favorite images category this year, a beautiful slideshow from the Irish Times, with commentary from hunt member James Phelan, of a day’s hunting with Ireland’s Waterford Hunt. In addition to the gorgeous photographs of horses, hounds, and the Irish coastal landscape, there is some good audio of the pack, the horn, and the huntsman.

The hounds, Phelan explains, are Old English hounds, and they are black and tan with only a few white markings here and there.

To access the photo slideshow, click http://www.irishtimes.com/indepth/slideshows/waterford-hunt-two/

And be sure your sound is on!

Noteworthies in Baily’s

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

Really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The presentations pages have a sentimentality all their own:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow hounds, a hunt country panorama, and some random jottings

Rosie Wilson sent this picture-postcard-perfect photo of her hound puppies

THE YEAR is winding down, it’s the holiday season, there’s a little Bailey’s in my glass, and it’s getting on toward bedtime–a potent mixture for inducing nostalgia in the sleepy houndblogger.

Out with the hounds this afternoon, it occurred to me how lucky we are to have use of the beautiful land in the Iroquois hunt country. Landowners and farmers really are the backbone of foxhunting–along with the hounds and the game–and we should appreciate them every chance we get. Standing atop a breezy hill this afternoon on Boone Valley Farm, the thought occurred to me that those of you who aren’t familiar with Iroquois might like a quick peek at some of our hunt country. This view rpresents one of the most beautiful panoramas in the hunt country and takes in a few places very fsamiliar to those who regularly follow hounds over it, such as Boone Valley Farm and Wee Young’s Covert. I’m still learning the names and locations of some of the coverts, which turns out to be a good deal more complicated than you might think. To give you some idea, here’s a rough map that Steve Snyder sketched out for us this afternoon while we were following the hunt in the four-wheeler:

Try keeping all THAT in your head! The hunt staff do, which strikes me as a minor miracle. Steve’s map helped keep me oriented properly as we buzzed along the roads around Boone Valley, Foxtrot, and other notable landmarks in the country. But it was no match for the sheer beauty of the land, even on a cloudy afternoon with a chilly wind blowing in. This brief video panorama hardly does it justice but gives you some idea:

We were in the middle of a lovely piece of land watching one of man’s ancient pastimes, but it is striking to note how much modern technology now contributes to our ability to protect the hounds and to carry on hunting even as development encroaches–in fact, the gradual incursion of roads and subdivisions is one of the reasons technology has become a feature of many hunt fields. Back in the 1800s, huntsmen and Masters bemoaned the coming of railway lines. And well they might: the railway lines didn’t just cause a nuisance in bisecting the hunt country and making it more difficult to cross, they also endangered hounds. Reading periodicals of the era when railways were relatively new, it is sad how often notices appeared reporting the death of hounds on railroad lines. Today, the car is the biggest risk to hounds in many hunt countries.

The hunt staff at Iroquois carry radios, the hounds wear tracking collars, and the kennel staff work the roads in their hound trucks, cell phones and radios on, all part of maximizing safety.

Foxhunting equipment today includes radios and cell phones for the humans, and tracking collars for the hounds

Even so, as we scanned the countryside and watched the horses and hounds from our vantage point on Boone Valley Farm’s highest hill, we were reminded that even with modern technology now on the hunt field, huntsman and hounds are part of an old, old ritual, and no technology can replace the hounds’ instincts and training or the close bond they have with the people who hunt them. And thank heavens for that! You can’t manufacture a hound’s sagacity or bravery.

Speaking of bravery … something we saw today has inspired us to inaugurate a Game as Grundy Award, named for the late great Iroquois hunting and stallion hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason, leg still in a cast, returned to the saddle for an hour today to accompany the hounds with joint-Master Jerry Miller, who has been carrying the horn while Lilla is recovering from a broken ankle. It was great to see her out again, and we wish her a speedy full recovery!

And now the houndbloggers will have to hie off to bed to dream of hounds. It’s just a few minutes now until Christmas Eve! We hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas!

A Christmas fox wishes you a happy holiday season!

Doing your end-of-year tax planning? Don’t forget to consider a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund! Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the care of the retired hounds.

The Hounds of War: A Veterans Day for Hunting Soldiers

RA Officers at the RA hunter trials 2009

British officers, retired and current, and soldiers turned out in force at the Royal Artillery hunter trials in England last month. The Royal Artillery is one of the world’s military regiments with a long and storied connection to both horses, hounds, and hunting.

IT’S Veteran’s Day if you’re in America, Remembrance Day if you’re in the United Kingdom, and so it’s a good day to reflect on the deep historical connection between the armed forces and hunting.

It’s less obvious now than it used to be, but you can still see outcrops in a few remaining military (or military-associated) packs, particularly in England. One example: The School of Infantry Beagles, now merged with another pack and called the Wiltshire and Infantry Beagles, retains its links with the infantry school and is a member of the Army Beagling Association (the mere fact that there is such a thing as the Army Beagling Association tells you a lot about the entwined history of pack hounds and soldiers). Britain’s last surviving military foxhound pack, the Royal Artillery Hunt, became a drag hunt after the 2005 hunt ban in England. The hunt’s country is Salisbury Plain, England’s main military training ground, and it is not at all unusual, when riding with the Royal Artillery hounds, to come upon tanks and shellholes. There are few jumps there, the main obstacles being slit trenches and the impressively deep tank tracks that must be navigated safely. And fragments of ammunition and military hardware are common, as parts of Salisbury Plain are impact areas for artillery practice.

For a little more on the history of British soldiers’ involvement in hunting with pack hounds, this is an interesting source, from a Parliamentary exploration of the whys and wherefores of the hunting soldier.

In the United States, the most notable military-foxhunting link is through the Fort Leavenworth Hunt, organized in 1926 by the 10th Cavalry regiment. The pack was disbanded during World War II but was reconstituted in 1964, and today still proudly counts military members among its numbers–including veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The hounds are American hounds.

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Back in the day, by which we mean before World War II, there were far more American military hunts, including the Artillery Hunt (Ft. Sill), Cavalry Hunt (Ft. Riley), Infantry Hunt (Ft. Benning), and 1st Cavalry Division Hunt (Ft. Bliss).

For more fascinating history of military foxhunts, especially in the United States, try the blog at A Horse Soldier’s Thoughts.

Xenophon, the Greek military leader and horseman who lived from around 430 to about 354 B.C., wrote of hunting:

The advantages that those who have been attracted by this pursuit will gain are many. For it makes the body healthy, improves the sight and hearing, and keeps men from growing old; and it affords the best training for war.  … In an attack on the enemy they will be able to go for him and at the same time to carry out the orders that are passed along, because they are used to doing the same things on their own account when capturing the game. … In the rout of the enemy they will make straight for the foe without a slip over any kind of ground, through habit. If part of their own army has met with disaster in ground rendered difficult by woods and defiles or whatnot, they will manage to save themselves without loss of honour and to save others.

I have heard far more recent commanding officers who have led troops in modern warfare say they still feel hunting provides valuable training today.

KIng's Troop rider on a gun horse

Members of the Royal Artillery’s elite King’s Troop ride the powerful gun horses in competition as well as in their ceremonial duties.

One, a former Master and huntsman at the Royal Artillery, told me that there were two important things, in particular, that soldiers still can learn from the hunt field: knowledge of the land and the wind and how to use them to their own advantage, and how to improvise and change plans under pressure when, as happens both in hunting and in war, the original battle plan falls apart due to conditions on the ground.

(Incidentally, the officer/MFH/huntsman in question also tells a fantastic tale of his days stationed in Cyprus, when his appointed “fox” for the drag hunt mislaid the line—right down the middle of land held by the Greeks on one side and land occupied by their enemies the Turks on the other. He said he felt he had little choice but to stand up tall in his irons and blow his horn for all he was worth as the hounds went on a screaming run through what should have been a sort of no man’s land. The Turks, he said, remained silent, but the Greeks all stood up and cheered. Nobody, happily, fired.)

Tank and coop at the RA hunter trials

Not your usual coop! The final jump at the Royal Artillery hunter trials.

Time with hounds wasn’t only considered good training at home; it was also good sport for troops–or at least their officers–abroad.

The Crusaders took hounds with them, and King Edward III took 60 couple of “large hounds,” as well as greyhounds, for hunting purposes when he invaded France in 1359. In 1812, during the Salamanca campaign, the Duke of Wellington “encouraged his officers to follow hounds, which he kept during this campaign,” according to Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages, by Joseph Thomas, MFH. When forced to retreat, Wellington wrote to his adjutant general: “If you should be pressed by the enemy, and if you should move, take care that all our stores and people (including my hounds at Arevalo) move off.”

Tales of hound packs on the Western Front during World War I also abound.

Again, from Thomas’s book, an account by P.W. Nickalls, an officer of the Northants Yeomanry:

We first had a couple of harriers and a beagle; in 1916, we moved down the line to a village called Harbarque, behind Arras. Someone told us there of a farmer in the neighborhood who had hounds before the war and still kept some. I went to see him and found he still had 50 couple of sorts. Greatly to my surprise I saw four couple of very light-colored hounds that I thought I recognized. Sure enough, they came from my friend Herman Tiarks, Master of the Mendip in Somerset. I knew the brand of old, and returned in triumph with all four couple. Then our regular fox hunting began.

The best hunt of all was when we killed our fox close under Mt. Saint Eloi. … I was riding a good English hunter, but even he was getting beat, and we were longing for the end to come. We were riding straight for the second line. As I jumped into a road I met a party going down to the trenches. The officer halted them, and was waving his tin hat in wild excitement. ‘You will have him in three fields.’ he yelled, and sure enough we did.

There are also numerous documented accounts of British officers, one a Brigadier-General, in the Great War who rallied their men by blowing their hunting horns.

And George Washington (above, in the snazzy hat) was well-known as a keen hunter and hound man who even forgave one of his French foxhounds, Vulcan, when he stole an entire ham right out of the Mt. Vernon kitchen just as a large formal dinner party was sitting down to dine. According to Washington’s butler, a fight ensued between hound and kitchen staff, but Vulcan came out the best and galloped off with the ham in his jaws. Upon being told, Washington laughed.

And one last piece of evidence for soldiers’ historic affinity for hounds and hunting, as described by Thomas:

“In the current year, 1928, we find this enthusiasm reflected on a piece of paper attached to the will of Captain Arthur Marmaduke Whitaker, late Duke of Wellington’s regiment, which reads:

‘Wishes for my wife to carry out at my death: I trust (should it be suggested) that if I die in the hunting season, hounds will not be stopped on my account, as I never can understand why people should be made more miserable than necessary.’

Here’s to you, Captain Arthur Marmaduke Whitaker–and to all of you who serve and have served!

The overzealous beagle

Bingo and something to chew on

They'll eat just about anything ... once! In this case, thankfully, it's just a chew toy.

A FRIEND of the hound blog sent me this story about a subject familiar to many hound owners: the hound who will eat almost anything (and sometimes anything).

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/10/yes-that-was-a-beagle.html#more

We at Beagle House have been lucky in this regard, in that none of our dogs, late or current, have ever eaten anything really, truly stupid, like, say, light bulbs or auto parts. But we do recognize the impulse Andrew Sullivan describes.

Harry, for example, first discovered his love of coffee mere moments after I had poured myself a piping hot cuppa. It was too hot for me, so I left it on the (appropriately named) coffee table and I went to start some laundry while I waited for the coffee to cool. From the laundry room, I heard lap lap lap lap lap. I assumed, as I sorted darks from lights, that it was just Harry drinking from his water bowl. But when I came back to the coffee table, there he was, his nose all the way into my coffee mug. The coffee was gone, and he was now testing the “good to the last drop” motto by licking out the last molecules.

What came next was a frantic call to the vet, who said, wisely, “Well, he’s going to be busy today.”

He was, but, strangely, not all that different from how he usually is.

Harry

"You gonna drink that coffee?"

The very worst thing Harry ever ate was–well, we’re not even exactly sure what it was. We think it might have been whatever the last bits of yogurt devolve into when they have been left in a garbage bag for some time. The smell was something never to be forgotten, and, we hope, never to be experienced again. When we took Harry to the vet, the odor wafted in with him on a vast fog of stink that caused the receptionist to rear back in disgust. Again, oddly, it didn’t have much effect on Harry himself, and he had no tummy trouble or loss of appetite afterwards.

Felix, the late king of Beagle House, was famous for eating anything and never having any ill effects from it. We assume he would eat unusual and/or foul things because he had been a stray for so long (he only weighed 12.4 pounds when we first found him). Along the way he had adopted the immutable ideas that you never know where the next meal might come from, and you better go on and eat what doesn’t eat you first. In Felix’s civilian, non-stray life, this included a dead baby ground hog, a mouse that essentially had become jerky by the time he discovered it, and cat food. He seemed to prefer things that were either  a) already dead or  b) on your own plate. He had a talent for efficiency. A real delicacy: moles. And he was fond of mice, which were in plentiful supply after the mower had gone  through the pasture behind the house I rented at the time, though mouse-eating was a habit I discouraged (mind you, I wasn’t all that happy about the moles, either–poor moles!). But Felix knew when it was mouse season, just as some people wait for the perfect two-week window for their favorite peach or long for fresh corn in summer. When we would go for walks after mowing day, he would step outside and raise his nose in the air, as if thinking, “Aaaah, yes! Mice today!” Yuck. His companion, Pun, once ate a rock (apparently this isn’t all that uncommon, as Gina Spadafori has been writing about over on the Pet Connection blog recently).

Tobes

Mr. Box: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

Mr. Box also is a fairly adventurous eater. I’m pretty sure he would try metal filings once, just to make sure whether or not he liked them. Fortunately, his favorite non-food food is neither disgusting nor too dangerous. Like most dogs, for whatever reason, it’s paper products.

So, on this Nov. 1, remember to keep Halloween candy well away from those hounds!

Bingo and toys

Houndbloggers Abroad: Hounds between the covers (of books, that is!)

The Ways' bookshop in Burrough Green, near Newmarket

The Ways' bookshop in Burrough Green, near Newmarket

WHEN we’re not chasing hounds chasing game, the Houndbloggers’ favorite hunt is for old sporting books. We prefer ones dealing with the management, breeding, and training of hounds–and especially if they include great old anecdotes about specific hounds, their personalities, and their adventures (or misadventures, as in Captain Pennell-Elmhirst’s great piece about the Ootacamund Hounds in Ooty, India).

There’s probably no better place in the world to shop for those treasures than in England. Hunting with hounds has such deep roots there, and the love of the dog is so generally strong, that you are likely to stumble on some extraordinary and delightful find every place you try, from the second-hand bookstore on the corner to the expensive sporting specialist shop. Every year, we visit England and return overloaded with tomes that have taken our fancy, often on fairly obscure topics. England’s bookstores, in fact, seem to specialize in the obscure, which is one reason I love them so much. How could anyone resist the slender volume titled Arthropods of Medical Importance or the obviously intriguing Life of the White Ant found in d’Arcy’s second-hand bookshop in Devizes?

Here are a few of our favorite sporting shops, excerpts of books we’ve recently spotted there, and their websites or contact information, in case you’re interested in inquiring about your own particular passion, from the history of the grouse to house-training your own dog.

Most of these are in England’s southwest because that is where we spend most of our time. But there are excellent second-hand and sporting specialist book shops throughout England and around the world. If you know of one and would like to share information about it, please let us know, and we’ll be happy to do a later post on them.

R.E. and G. B. WAY, Burrough Green, near Newmarket.

Contact (from the US):  011-44-1638 507217. From the UK, dial 01638-507217.

This lovely shop’s location near the heart of Britain’s racing country attracts a lot of Thoroughbred lovers. But their enormous and varied stock covers many, many canine and hunting subjects, too. Their hound-book inventory, in particular, is outstanding. They’ve got single copies of exceedingly rare or hard-to-find books, but they also have multiple copies of desirable volumes considered classic and essential for foxhunters and hound lovers, like The Noble Science of Fox-Hunting by F. P. Delme Radcliffe and Ikey Bell’s Foxiana, all beautifully aged.

The Ways' bookshop occupies a lovely old house that is completely stuffed with sporting tomes, photographs, personal hunting journals, and the like

The Ways' bookshop occupies a lovely old house that is completely stuffed with sporting tomes, photographs, personal hunting journals, and the like

The shop is open by appointment and occupies a marvelous ivy-covered house just a few miles outside of Newmarket. Among the unique offerings there are several personal, handwritten hunting journals kept by individuals who hunted with some of England’s most renowned packs at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

In the Ways' front grande, a hint of what topics lie inside

In the Ways' front garden, a hint of what specialities lie inside

The Ways’ shop took the biggest toll on our bank account, and it is fairly expensive, but the fact that they have multiple copies of many books does allow the shopper some chance to compare prices.

Good to know: The bathroom on the ground floor also serves as the half-price room! The books there cover a huge range of subjects and fill the shelves all around the, er, bathroom equipment. Worth a visit.

A Find: The Science of Foxhunting, by Scrutator. Published in 1868, this volume is a presentation copy signed by the well-known 19th-century huntsman Frank Goodall, who gave it to a friend whose name, unfortunately, we can’t decipher! (UPDATE! We’ve found that it is inscribed to the Hon. Alan Pennington, an apparently very dashing and forward sort of rider to hounds who also served as Master at the Holderness for one season before “resigning on account of the scarcity of foxes,” according to one reference.)

A View: “We dislike to see hounds at anytime huddled up together round their huntsman, like a flock of sheep penned in the corner of a field by a dog snapping round them. When the entry have become steady, and are admitted into the pack, discipline of this kind  is as injurious as unnecessary, since we have remarked that hounds kept in such  strict order are more inclined to run riot than those treated with more confidence.

“The late Assheton Smith was, in this respect, the most  trusting huntsman we have ever seen in the field, and we were often amused with the sudden change in the behaviour of his hounds on his arrival at the place of meeting. Whilst in charge of the kennel huntsman and two whips, they trotted along in a compact body, solemnly and demurely, not a hound venturing to step out of place; but no sooner did they catch sight of their master, or hear his voice, than, breaking loose from further restraint like boys out of school, they rushed eagerly to meet him, jumping and playing round his horse, with other manifestations of excessive delight.

“The character of the hounds seemed changed in a moment, and as they moved off to draw covert, an independence of action was assumed totally at variance with their former deportment. They knew no whipper-in dare touch or control them in their huntsman’s presence, to whom, however, they yielded that cheerful obedience so pleasing to behold in all animals attached to a kind master, a word or wave of the hand being sufficient to recall or turn them in any direction.”  –The Science of Foxhunting, by Scrutator, p. 165-166

John Head, who owns the Salisbury shop with his wife Judith

John Head, who owns the Salisbury shop with his wife Judith

JOHN AND JUDITH HEAD, Salisbury

Website: http://www.hollom.demon.co.uk/

In Salisbury, our favorite stop is John and Judith Head’s, one of Britain’s top sporting booksellers. They specialize in highly prized rare volumes and sporting prints, but don’t be afraid to peruse the handsome shelves if your budget is small. We’ve found terrific books there for prices starting as low as £7, about $13. Small hunting prints, including some by Munnings that are difficult to find in print form in the US, also start in that price range. Also on offer: signed prints by Snaffles, Lionel Edwards, and John King.

But the real beauty of the Heads’ shop is in the variety of rare and high-end stock on a wide range of sporting and countryside subjects. My favorite purchase from there is my copy of Hon. George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley’s Reminiscences of a Huntsman from the late 1800s, and more recently we have spotted some beautiful treatises on hound and dog training.

Another plus to visiting the Heads’ quiet shop in Salisbury is the chance of meeting John and Judith. They are wonderful storytellers and are also a wealth of information about books, field sports, and much more.

The Heads' shopwindow in Salisbury offers a tempting glimpse at the delights inside, from rare signed prints to valuable volumes.

The Heads' shopwindow in Salisbury offers a tempting glimpse of the delights inside, from rare signed prints to valuable volumes.

Good to know: The Heads’ shop is closed on Saturday. On the other hand, if there is a game fair or horse trials going on any particular Saturday, you can probably find them there!

A Find: Tell Him, by Lt.-Col. G. H. Badcock. We usually spend most of our time looking at the books about hunting and hounds, but we happened across this slim but interesting volume about dog training and thought it worth mentioning, although it is less representative of the Heads’ stock than the more beautiful and rare books are.

A View: “The whole secret of success with a dog lies in being perfectly natural with him, and trying to copy someone else is not being natural. How many times have I said that you cannot fool a dog by trying to be other than yourself, I should be sorry to say, but certainly, in regard to training, it is the greatest truism of all. Every normal dog has the power of thought-reading very highly developed, and they will give their confidence to one person who they know understands them as readily as they will withhold it from someone who does not, and I admit at once that this is a very difficult proposition to tackle, if the gift for understanding and winning the confidence of a dog is not a natural trait.” —Tell Him, by Lt.-Col. G. H. Badcock

D’ARCY BOOKS, Devizes, Wiltshire

Contact:  011-44-1380-726922 from the US. From the UK, 01380 726922.

This charming two-storey shop on the High Street in Devizes is a must-visit for us. It’s known in our family as “McGregor’s,” because the owner is a Mr. McGregor; he usually can be found at the shop on Thursdays and Saturdays, sitting in a lawn chair just to one side of his shop entrance, wearing his fingerless gloves and reading some interesting book.

D'Arcy Books in Devizes has small sections on field sports, equestrian, and canine topics that never fail to yield marvelous finds at very fair prices.

D'Arcy Books in Devizes has small sections on field sports, equestrian, and canine topics that never fail to yield marvelous finds at very fair prices.

Mr. McGregor at his second-hand bookshop, d'Arcy Books

Inside, d’Arcy Books is the epitome of an English second-hand bookshop, complete with creaky stairs leading up to the history and military sections. You can find anything and everything there, from cookbooks to ancient guidebooks describing local landmarks, and, in fact, the section reserved for sporting and equestrian books is fairly small. But we have always, always been extraordinarily lucky at d’Arcy, and I never seem to venture in without leaving with something exquisite–and usually with some change still in my pocket!

One of our two best finds there was a pristine biography of the famed but tragic jockey Fred Archer, who rode Iroquois (for whom the Iroquois Hunt is named) to victory in the 1881 Epsom Derby. The book dated from the early 1900s and had the softest red leather covers, and it is one of the best biographies I have ever read, of anyone.

D'Arcy Books also excels in local Wiltshire and British history and countryside books, like these pretty old guide books.

D'Arcy Books also excels in local Wiltshire and British history and countryside books, like these pretty old guide books.

The other miraculous find: an exceedingly rare presentation copy of artist Joan Wanklyn’s Guns at the Wood about the Royal Horse Artillery’s elite King’s Troop.

Good to know: The sporting section in d’Arcy Books might look small, but new books are added there regularly, and it is always worth checking back there even a couple of times in a week. It is one of the best sources we know for wonderful volumes at good prices. Also worth a look: the local history and countryside sections.

A Find: The Way of a Dog, by William Beach Thomas. Essentially an essay on living with dogs, this lovely and moving book is written largely in the form of a letter to the author’s dog.

A View: “Though I let you wander freely, it scarcely occurs to you to leave the garden. A walk with me is so much greater sport than a solitary ramble that you have half-forgotten that the second is a pleasure at all. But when I promise a walk you even open the wicket gate, which leads to the fields, by yourself and hurry to the juncture of road and path to await, in utter excitement, my decision. When the field path is chosen every nerve in you tingles to delight. Companionship with me–that is your consummate pleasure; and if two animals enjoy companionship as you and I do, each must surely understand the other, by virtue of some sense of which this reason, or our boasting, is mere branch. If you possess no reason, you are conscious of something better and more full of meaning even than instinct.” —The Way of a Dog, by William Beach Thomas

The famed "Bibliotherapy Room" at Mr B's Bookshop in Bath features free coffee and a fireplace

The famed "Bibliotherapy Room" at Mr B's Bookshop in Bath features free coffee and a fireplace

MR B’s EMPORIUM, Bath

Website: http://www.mrbsemporium.com/

For new books, we heartily recommend Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. It occupies three floors of in one of Bath’s remarkable champagne-colored stone buildings, and it is, without question, the best bookstore for new books that we have ever been in.

Mr. B’s isn’t a sporting specialist; it is a general-interest shop that specializes instead in very high-quality editions of old classics and new works. But we include it here because it offers a notable array of works about countryside subjects that are near and dear to many foxhunters’ and dog-lovers’ hearts. Not only can you find unusual works pertaining to wildlife and country life here, but almost every book they offer is also gorgeous, making it an outstanding place to purchase gifts or books pretty enough to collect on their looks alone!

Head up a twisty staircase to the shop’s second floor, and there you’ll find the shop’s horse, dog, and country life sections. Conveniently located in the next room is what Mr. B’s calls its Bibliotherapy Room: comfy chairs facing a fireplace, with free coffee on offer in Mr. B’s own mugs. All of which makes it very tempting to sit for a long while, paging through dog books.

Mr B's Bookshop is hands-down the best shop for new books that we've ever visited--anywhere!

Mr B's Bookshop is hands-down the best shop for new books that we've ever visited--anywhere!

Good to know: Mr. B’s has a resident dog, Vlashka. Ask to meet her!

A Find: Words from The Countryman, edited by Valerie Porter. A collection of wit, wisdom, article snippets, observations, and letters to the editor that have appeared in The Countryman magazine, published since 1927.

Two Views:

“While staying with a friend in Scotland, a very deaf man of my acquaintance thought it would be interesting to try the effect of his electric deaf-aid on the 15-year-old dog. He put it in place, and when the owner called the dog it immediately started to its feet, barked, and wagged its tail. It had not heard its master’s voice for years.” — from 1953, in The Countryman

“Motoring one night recently I saw, on rounding a bend, that the whole roadway ahead was dotted with pairs of tiny green points, gleaming iridescently in the darkness, and continually appearing and disappearing. I found that I had met an army of rats on the move, and that the green points were the creatures’ eyes. The gleaming brilliance of animals’ eyes, when caught in the glare of headlights, is a common sight to motorists. A cat’s, a dog’s, or a rabbit’s eyes usually shine green. The eyes of a fox flash back bright crimson, the eyes of a bullock a kind of rich amber.” — From 1931 in The Countryman

Mr B's specializes in beautiful, upmarket editions of familiar classics as well as new books. These gemlike special editions often feature gorgeous covers that makes these books ideal gifts.

Mr B's specializes in beautiful, upmarket editions of familiar classics as well as new books. These gemlike special editions often feature gorgeous covers that makes these books ideal gifts.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this e-ramble through these shops. I know the Iroquois hounds haven’t been able to hunt much recently due to the terrible weather, and so that means their devoted followers have been “in kennels,” too! Here’s hoping this “paper chase” of sorts has helped keep you occupied until you and the hounds see sunshine and the hunt field again.

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

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