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!

Peterborough Pictures

Neither of the houndbloggers was able to attend Peterborough this year, so we were especially pleased to find that photographer David Ryan did go–and has now posted his typically beautiful photographs from the day in this slideshow. A helpful note: turn your speakers on, because the background sounds are also a lot of fun to hear. Enjoy, and here’s hoping we can go next season!

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a results list from the hound show, but we’ve heard that Badger–a full brother to Baffle, the mother of the BA litter–was third among the stallion hounds!

Space Invaders, or How to help your dog train you (with video)

Gaelic and Hailstone with Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason, proving that training can be fun.

ONE of the problems handlers face in training hounds for the show ring is The Biscuit Lean or its cousin, The Biscuit Crouch. Those aren’t the technical names, but they’re pretty accurate. Huntsmen showing hounds have pockets full of biscuits for the hounds to chase when off-leash in the show ring, and they’re handy for keeping a hound’s attention while you’re surrounded by other huntsmen and their hounds.

Thing is, the hounds learn to anticipate getting that biscuit, and while waiting for the huntsman to reward them they will start to leeeaan forward or even crouch back slightly on their hind legs, preparing to launch themselves at the biscuit when it’s tossed. Bad, bad dog. Why? A leaning hound is in an unnatural, unrelaxed stance that makes it harder for a judge to accurately assess his conformation. A crouching one will tend to place his hind legs too widely, making them look conformationally suspect.

Joint-Master Jerry Miller, who has developed the Iroquois training program, and huntsman Lilla Mason often conduct hound training together.

These are ways hounds in the ring can “push” or pressure a handler, and Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller has devised a way to stop this mild dominance behavior: by playing a gentle game of Space Invaders. For the last several days, Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason has been trying this on the young hounds, and its proven remarkably effective (and fast) at stopping this pushy behavior. Lilla demonstrated it for us on Thursday and explained the philosophy behind this common-sense training technique, which is easily applicable to some house-dog behaviors, too.

One of the things that appealed to us about this is the way it encourages the hound to think for himself and make his own decision, not because he’s afraid of being punished, but because he wants the outcome that results in a treat for him. It also allows the hound to trigger the desirable outcome (biscuit!) himself by his actions. When the hound leaves the show board, Lilla simply “shuts off.” The hounds we watched quickly learned that they themselves could reactivate her attention only by stepping back on the board, and they could restart the biscuit reward by standing square. By leaning or pressing forward on Lilla’s space, they only activated Space Invaders.

We used the “off switch” technique  with one of our dogs, Mr. Box, when he developed the annoying habit of barking incessantly at us while we made the dogs’ meals. Here’s how it worked: as soon as he barked, we immediately stopped whatever we were doing–opening the canned food, scooping kibble into bowls, whatever. We’d put the dog-food-making items down, step away from the counter, and slump, looking down at the floor and avoiding any contact, visual or verbal, with the dogs until Mr. Box stopped barking.

Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason with Starter and Stanway

As soon as he stopped, we’d return to the counter and pick up making dinner wherever we had left off. Rinse and repeat as needed (at the first sign of barking). Within a week, Mr. Box had learned to “control” how fast dinner arrived by not barking, and now he sits silently (but gazing very intently) while we make his meal.

Jerry Miller has spent much of his career as a huntsman and hound breeder trying to figure out these training puzzles, and many of his solutions, like the invading a domineering hound’s space, deal directly with a hound’s psychology. Teaching a dog merely to avoid punishment seems to us a blunter instrument.

Side note: for a funny take on training people this way, you might enjoy Amy Sutherland’s piece in the New York Times about how this worked on her husband.

Kennel manager Michael Edwards also is on hand at training sessions.

Late last month at a kennel open house, Jerry and Lilla talked about showing and judging hounds. They didn’t just talk about training, they also talked about the showmanship and showring strategy that huntsmen have to use to make their hounds stand out well in their brief time in a crowded show ring.

The hound you’ll see in this video is young Battle, one of the BA litter out of our imported English bitch Cottesmore Baffle. After you watch this video, scroll down to the next one to check out how much progress he has made just since late April, when we made this first video. In this video, you’ll also see a vivid case of a hound pushing his handler–that was before the Space Invaders lesson!

Another aside: if you didn’t get Jerry’s reference to Peterborough, check out our post (with some video) about the world’s most prestigious foxhound show.

Here’s the “big, overgrown puppy” today. One surprise: he shows signs of shyness, as Lilla discusses in the video. It’s not clear yet whether this is temporary or a part of his personality, but it’s information Lilla files away in her mind, because it could affect how she handles him on summer hound walk and, later, in the hunt field. In the meantime, her work with him now will focus on increasing his confidence.

Finally, there’s Driver. The Big Shark. We’ve been following the pupposaurus since he was in utero, but now he’s turned into a real pin-up boy with some serious jaws in his biscuit-catching style. Enjoy:

The Virginia Hound Show is on May 30. The houndbloggers plan to be there, and in the meantime we’ll keep you updated on the doings at the kennel!

MFHA hunt staff seminar, part 2: Masters of their craft

Some of the Iroquois members at Sunday's MFHA hunt staff seminar. Left to right: Nancy Clinkinbeard, Mary Moraja, huntsman Lilla Mason, and Gene Baker.

IF Saturday at the MFHA biennial hunt staff seminar was field trip day (for a tour of the Iroquois Hunt Club’s kennel and a visit with our retired hounds), Sunday was more of a lecture series. But not some musty, fusty maundering on by dull speakers, no way. There were panel discussions featuring some of the hardboot Masters and huntsmen from hunts around the country and from the “young guns” of a new generation of hunting stars. There was a meaty and highly entertaining presentation by a scientist who studies the urban coyote. And there was a panel on the eternal question: how do I get and keep my horse hunting fit?

The houndbloggers attended three of the four discussions, missing the equine fitness one, and so we can offer a summary of the presentations that related to hounds and coyotes.

It's all about the hounds!

The Young Guns

We should say right off the bat that Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason was among the presenters as a member of the “young guns” panel. She was the only amateur huntsman, and the only woman, alongside fellow huntsmen Peter Wilson of the Grand Canyon Hounds (Arizona), Ciaran Murphy of Golden’s Bridge Hounds (New York), Reg Spreadborough of the Orange County Hunt (Virginia), Adam Townsend of the De La Brooke Hunt (Maryland), and Ken George of the Moingona Hunt (Iowa).

Lilla Mason (Iroquois) focused on the process by which field members become hound lovers, just as she did. Like many of us, Lilla was drawn to hunting primarily due to her passion for riding, but the more she learned, and the closer she got to the hounds, the more she came to love hound work–a process that eventually led to her carrying the horn as the first female huntsman at Iroquois.

Lilla emphasized the success Iroquois has had through inviting hunt members to help with summer walk, leash training for the puppies, and other similar activities that give members a window onto the hounds’ everyday lives and the hunt’s breeding and training programs. She noted that giving the field printed out hound lists at each meet has also given riders an opportunity to learn the hounds’ names and follow them through each hunt day. And other initiatives, such as Lilla’s “Hound of the Day” reports, also help give the field (as well as Iroquois social members) a connection to the hounds and a different perspective on the hunt day.

IHC member Cooper Lilly and Payton: kennel visits are mutually beneficial!

“It brings the members closer to the hounds,” Lilla said. “It’s important to open up those doors for them. … The more you bring the members into the hound program, it helps enhance their enjoyment of the day, their enjoyment of the sport.”

“On the first day of cubhunting, the measure of success I hold myself to is, did I come with a pack or did I come with a bunch of individuals? The training program is about bringing each individual to become part of the pack. It’s like a symphony: each violin has had to practice and practice until they’re really good and can be part of the symphony that is the finished product.”

Lilla, the hounds, and hunt members at the 2009 Blessing of the Hounds

Lilla recalled vividly the first time Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller handed her the horn and gave her the opportunity to hunt the hounds herself.

“I wasn’t going to back down from a dare,” she quipped. “So I left the meet, tooted on my horn, and all of a sudden my whole world changed.”

The most startling change: suddenly, no one else seemed to know what they were doing, from Lilla’s new perspective as huntsman. All the whippers-in Lilla knew and had worked with on the hunt field as a whipper-in herself suddenly seemed to have become inept fools.

“They weren’t in the right place, I wanted them here and they were over there,” Lilla said, laughing along with the audience as she recalled her bemusement. “And nobody was back there, where I wanted somebody. And they were all walking, why weren’t they trotting? Why weren’t they doing anything?

“All of a sudden, this ball started rolling that I couldn’t stop,” she continued. “I was having to decide this, and that, and this,  and there was this fieldmaster with all these people breathing down my neck, and it was just overwhelming.”

Summer hound walks provide a good opportunity for Iroquois members and guests to learn about the hounds and their training.

“If you hold your thumb out in front of you and stare at your thumbnail, everything else is a blur,” she said. “When you’re hunting the hounds, all of a sudden you’re using your eyes to collect information from the whole world. You’re looking for every opportunity to get information: what the body language of the hounds is telling you, what the temperature is, where the wind’s coming from, what you see in the coverts. Collecting information to try to take advantage of any opportunity that might help you help the hounds produce good sport. And when something interrupts that canvas, it’s really irritating.

“I made a promise to myself after that day that I would never belittle or think worse of an ill-tempered huntsman, because you have no idea until you do it what that feels like!”

Iroquois Driver with one of his friends at the kennel. When members visit the puppies, they learn about the young hounds, and the hounds gain confidence around with new people.

All of the huntsmen on the panel except Lilla were professionals, and a majority advocated a quiet attitude in dealing with hounds, something the houndbloggers were gratified to hear.

“I think handling hounds on a loose rein is an art form,” Peter Wilson of the Grand Canyon Hounds said. “A pack that is sensitive to what the person who is hunting them wants is a wonderful thing. Hounds that go along without any chasing, whip-cracking, and turning by staff is great to watch even on a poor hunting day. In my opinion, the hounds’ legitimate ideas have to be followed and honored by quiet huntsmen. Getting wound up at the wrong moment because of anger or excitement can mess up a day’s hunting very quickly. It’s easy for a huntsman to get frustrated without realizing how much it affects his hounds. So much of what the hounds cue on is the tone of voice and posture and body language, so it is easy for them to mistake your general frustration for being angry at them. Their keenness and confidence will go way down if a huntsman is too preoccupied with his own mood rather than doing what is best to help his hounds.”

Many of the "young guns" on the panel recommended a quiet style with hounds.

One common concern the huntsmen voiced: loss of country, a complaint that almost every hunt has as rural land is eaten up by development.

Ciaran Murphy, who hunts Penn Marydel hounds at Golden’s Bridge outside of New York City, noted that his hunt has a “small, tight country.” That means, he said, “Radios are absolutely essential.”

Like Iroquois, Murphy uses radios as well as road whips to help protect hounds in an area where roads and development are encroaching. One of the more interesting things Murphy said, at least to us, was that he is still chasing both fox and coyote at a ratio he estimates at about 50-50. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard of a fox percentage that high, as most countries seem to have all but made the switch from foxes to coyotes as coyote territory has expanded (more on that in our next post, when we report on the outstanding presentation Dr. Stanley Gehrt made on the urban coyote!). Murphy said his tactic, when he’s chasing coyote in a small country, is to try to turn the coyote to persuade it to stay in the country.

Several huntsmen on both the "young guns" and the "old guns" panels advocated handling hounds loosely and letting them range rather than keeping them in a tight group, especially when hunting coyote

“We’ve had days where we’ve run a fox for 45 minutes and put it to ground, and then on the way to the next covert a coyote pops up and hounds are gone,” Murphy said. “It’s almost like following a different pack of hounds, in a way. Everything changes. Some hounds start to shine. I have some hounds that are good fox hounds and some that are good coyote hounds, and, on average, they run both equally well, but it’s really a humbling thing, when you have a fox and then you have a coyote, to see the difference in how they run and how it affects the hounds.”

Murphy also made one of the day’s nicer observations–and one that got a knowing laugh from the huntsmen in the audience–when he observed that his job “is one of the few things you can do where every morning there are 60 to 80 faces that are happy to see you!”

Diminishing hunt country remains a concern for nearly every huntsman and Master.

Reg Spreadborough of the Orange County Hounds–home of the unique red ring-neck hounds we’ve written about before–hunts two packs, divided by age. “The younger pack goes to the grasslands with open fields,” he said. “They stay together a lot better, they honor each other when the first strike hounds open up. When they cast themselves and they’re trying to find their quarry, they get together a lot quicker, honor each other, and go.”

Spreadborough said, in his experience, a mixed-age pack is more liable to get strung out on a run as older hounds pull ahead of younger ones; stringing out, he said, is “my pet hate, if I have one.” But he acknowledged that he still hunts foxes, and that allows for different tactics.

“With foxes, we don’t tend to get the hour-and-a-half, two-hour hunts that the other packs would hunting coyotes,” he said.

Spreadborough made an interesting point when he said that, just as there’s ideally a “golden thread” of communication between huntsman and hounds, there also should be a similar thread linking huntsman and hunt staff.

“If you find a whipper-in that you can key off, you almost don’t even have to say anything,” he said.

It's ideal if the huntsman and whippers-in also have a "golden thread."

Also on that point, Lilla recalled a story in which an English huntsman she knows once stood ringside with her at the Peterborough foxhound show and relayed what one of the judges was saying as the class progressed some yards away. “He was able to do that because he had served as whipper-in to the judge for many years and had learned to read his lips!” she said.

Adam Townsend of the De La Brooke Foxhounds spent a good bit of time discussing the importance of whippers-in to a huntsman’s work.

“I translate a measure of our success out hunting to our staff,” Townsend said, adding that the De La Brooke’s whips are all volunteers. “Each of the individuals that whipped in had a different background, and each made the commitment that the job requires. The De La Brooke pack hunts three days a week from September until March. In looking for the right individual to help with the pack and effectively whip in out hunting, several factors had to be taken into consideration. I try to look at their first attempt at correcting a hound. Many people take an aggressive approach, believing if you yell at it, it will obey. To me, this would not be the proper first response in dealing with a hound on exercise or even, in some cases, out hunting. Less is more.”

Many huntsmen prefer a quiet, relaxed whipper-in, believing they help keep the hounds relaxed in their work as a pack.

Townsend explained that. on hound walk, he walks the hounds “loosely, not in a restrictive form.”

“I’ve found that new whips tend to be ‘whip happy’ and want the pack to be tighter,” he said. Townsend added that he does not encourage his staff to crack their whips unless it is truly necessary, as in a safety situation out hunting, when, for example, hounds might need to be kept off a road.

“I don’t like tense whips, because that makes for tense hounds,” he observed.

Ken George of Moingona proved an able storyteller and kept the audience’s attention with his vivid description of hunt days on the Iowa plains and, more recently, to newly opened country in Kansas.

Do whatever it takes to get out with the hounds!

George explained that he Moingona pack is a bitch pack of mostly Crossbred hounds, and their quarry is almost entirely the coyote. He has drafts from a variety of hunts, including Midland and Fox River Valley, “so there are straight July dogs from Midland that can flat fly. We’ve got some nice English dogs that can flat fly. We’ve got big dogs, little dogs, pretty dogs, ugly dogs–but they are a pack. They hunt as a pack. They sound like a pack. They look like a pack. From a hundred feet, you can tell the difference between them. But from a hundred and fifty yards, we have the best pack class in America. They’re demons, that’s what I call them.”

Unlike Spreadborough, who hunts fox exclusively, George said he didn’t mind if hounds get strung out on a run and viewed it as a natural effect of chasing the coyote.

George’s main theme, though, was one every serious huntsman and hunt follower knows well: the true fox-chaser (or coyote-chaser) will do whatever it takes to watch those hounds work together to puzzle out a line. George pointed out that he shoes horses and works cattle for landowners, all free of charge, in order to ensure his country stays open and he can keep hunting. When the opportunity to open hunt country in Kansas some six hours south, George said he jumped at it.

“I drive six hours because I’m ate up with foxhunting,” he explained. “You have to do what it takes.”

Next time: The “Old Guns” panel!

Musings from the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show (with video)

Some 1500 hounds from more than 100 hunting packs converged for the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in England on July 22

Some 1500 hounds from more than 100 hunting packs converged for the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in England on July 22

It was all about the hounds at Peterborough in England late last month as hunting folk and hound lovers gathered for the Royal Foxhound Show.

American hound show buffs might have been surprised by the setting. Peterborough’s show takes place not in a stately grass ring on some storied estate, but in a concrete-floored indoor arena. That’s actually better for the participants, some huntsmen point out, because the concrete floor harbors fewer natural scents than grass does. Grass rings are more picturesque, but by the time several dozen hounds have shown in their classes, the grass also becomes cluttered with lost bits of biscuits, which then can distract later hounds in their own classes.

(One note regarding scent, though: at Peterborough, our correspondents and quite a few competitors and spectators noticed an interesting thing. The bitches, who showed in the afternoon, did not seem to show nearly as well as the dogs had in the morning classes, and a number of people ringside theorized that this might have been due to the fact that a ringkeeper mopped up the concrete floor after each class, clearing away waste with what appeared to be water and disinfectant. If the water was mixed with disinfectant, could the accumlating chemical scent have put hounds in later classes off their game? We wonder!)

The Beaufort hounds, including the show's top dog, were relaxed in their kennel on the showgrounds

The Beaufort hounds, including the show's top dog, were relaxed in their kennel on the showgrounds

Peterborough has the flavor of a national fair for hunting people. There are row upon row of kennels housing the most beautiful hounds in the world from some of the sport’s most revered packs. There are also stalls to tempt your wallet, selling everything from antique hunt whips to gleaming hunting horns to sporting art, ancient tomes, kennel coats, custom Patey helmets, and handsome tweeds. But even those delights could not compete with the show ring itself for the crowd of dedicated hound aficionados.

For huntsmen, Masters, and hound breeders, Peterborough is a useful chance to see what everyone else’s breeding looks like and to compare notes with others about what crosses work best on the hunt field. One thing that stuck out to the Iroquois Hunt contingent was the dominance of the Duke of Beaufort’s stallion hound Bailey ’03, whose get filled the classes. Some breeders at Peterborough expressed concern that Bailey’s popularity eventually could shrink the pool of available outcrosses, which could become  problem in for future breeding. But there was no denying his influence in the pedigrees.

It’s interesting to see the trends in a hunt’s breeding, and regular Peterborough attendees who view packs year after year can spot when a hunt’s breeding program is on the improve as well as when it hits a bump in the road. One indication that all is not well in a breeding program, for example: loss of hounds’ size and scope. But spectators’ eagle eyes aren’t just looking for flaws, they’re also picking up signs of the next great stallion hound or brood bitch–perhaps with thoughts of breeding their own stock to that line in the future. 

Green the dominant color

Speaking of dominance, the Duke of Beaufort’s and the Heythrop continued their historic rivalry in the show ring, piling up rosettes between them. When the seasoned sporting writer and Peterborough historian Michael Clayton noted that “Peterborough has become very green,” he wasn’t referring to environmental friendliness–he meant that the dark green coats worn by both the Beaufort and Heythrop staff had come to seem unbeatable. The Beaufort, in fact, took the big prize of the day when its doghound Farrier ’07, winner of the stallion hound class, went on to take the doghound championship; that was the Beaufort’s eighth Peterborough doghound championship, and their dog Gaddesby ’07, reserve champion in the stallion hound class, finished third in the championship, too. Gaddesby, by the way, is the sire of current Iroquois puppy Driver, out of Dragonfly.

Cottesmore's hounds, shown here with huntsman Neil Coleman and the Peterborough judges, showed well all day

Cottesmore's hounds, shown here with huntsman Neil Coleman and the Peterborough judges, showed well all day

The Cottesmore finished second in the stallion hound class to the Duke of Beaufort’s eventual doghound champion Farrier with Cottesmore Badger ’07. Badger got an especially loud round of applause, partly, we imagine, because he represented an unusual incursion by a non-Beaufort and non-Heythrop hound.

We had a rooting interest in the Cottesmore hounds, having a long relationship with the pack and some of its bloodlines in the Iroquois pack. Their outstanding doghound Stampede, in fact, is the sire of nine puppies out of Cottesmore Baffle, whom we imported this spring. So Iroquois had good reason to celebrate along with Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman and whipper-in Jack Bevan!

Luminaries, old friends, and good hound stories

Legendary Cottesmore Master and huntsman Capt. Brian Fanshawe also was on hand to enjoy his pack’s successes, and he pronounced himself “very proud” of their performance.

Speaking of Capt. Fanshawe, here’s an interesting story he told. One of the reasons Fanshawe is famous (and there are many!) is for bringing the highly successful ST Carlow bloodline from a disbanded Irish pack to the Cottesmore, launching one of the great hunting bloodlines in the United Kingdom. (“They are terribly easy to handle, nearly like pet dogs,” he once told Michael Clayton for a history of the Cottesmore. “They need plenty of hunting, but they are biddable, and they have what Sir Peter Farquhar called ‘fox sense.'”) 

One day, Fanshawe explained at Peterborough, he met up with a huntsman from Melbourne, Australia, who mentioned that he, too, had some old ST Carlow blood in his pack. Fanshawe was understandably skeptical. But it turned out, Fanshawe said, that the Australian was right. It was little known that a single male from the Irish STs had indeed been shipped to Australia sometime in the 1800s, where his blood lives on! The Iroquois pack also has this wonderful blood through our importation of Cottesmore, Bicester, and North Cotswold hounds. We would love to know more about the original Australian ST Carlow hound, and we’re putting out the call to anyone who knows the tale to share details with us. In the meantime, we’ll see what we can find out on our own and try to get back to you with the  more complete story.

Philip Stubbings, far right, was a whipper-in at Iroquois in the 1990s and is now huntsman at the Blankney

Philip Stubbings, far right, was at Iroquois in the 1990s and is now huntsman at the Blankney. Philip and friend Sara, far left, met up with Iroquois MFH Jerry L. Miller and huntsman Lilla Mason at Peterborough.

Also on hand at Peterborough this year and seated ringside throughout the day was Fanshawe’s cousin, Capt. Ian Farquhar, Master of the Beaufort. Others seen and noted: the Berkeley Hunt’s Henry Berkeley, sporting photographer Jim Meads, and Philip Stubbings, formerly of Iroquois (about 10 or so years ag0) and the Belvoir and now professional huntsman of the Blankney in England. We were especially pleased to see Philip again. He appears to be doing very well at the Blankney. He also made our day by mentioning that he had seen an article in England’s Horse and Hound magazine about the Hound Welfare Fund the week before the show. Philip said he was especially pleased to see old Stamina’s picture accompanying that story. One of our most beloved retired hounds and an import from the Cottesmore when she was a puppy, Stamina died last year.

“Woollies” proving more popular
 
Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason and Master Jerry Miller noticed an interesting trend at Peterborough this year: there seemed to be more  “woolly” hounds, the rough-coated type you often get with the Welsh blood we also have at Iroquois. Woollies are sometimes less popular in the show ring than the smooth-coated hounds, although (at the risk of tooting our own hunting horn) our loveable and highly talented woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, won the 2008 Mid-America Hound Show’s grand championship. “You’d love him if they threw a bucket of water over his coat!” one judge memorably chided another, who liked Sassoon but not his wool, before they both chose him champion.
An outstanding woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, who won the 2008 Mid-America grnd championship. Woollies like Sassoon were more in evidence this year at Peterborough.

An outstanding woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, who won the 2008 Mid-America grnd championship. Woollies like Sassoon were more in evidence this year at Peterborough.

 “It was really striking, the number of different hunts that have woollies now,” Lilla said. “I think there were four or five hunts that had woollies at Peterborough this year. Of course, the Bicester and the Cottesmore had woollies, but there were three or four other hunts that also brought woollies, and that was eye-opening. Woollies haven’t usually been fashionable in the show ring, and we wondered if that trend is slowly changing.”

One thing the Iroquois group particularly liked was a small but pleasing tradition: the winning hounds’ puppy-walkers were invited to accept the hounds’ trophies on behalf of the winning hunt. That’s a nice touch that reminds us again that bringing a puppy along often really is the work of a team.

Peterborough was only the start of a brilliant week for our intrepid Iroquois correspondents, who also attended a major game fair at Belvoir Castle, visited kennels, and went roading hounds through the English countryside with the Cottesmore. More on that in a later post!