A Peek in the Nursery

Three of the Driver-Sage puppies earlier this month. Photo by Dave Traxler.

IT’S been a while since the houndbloggers have checked in on the various puppies we know, so we thought we’d catch you up on how they’re doing: they’re doing great! With puppies, of course, the news is less important than what they look like, right? So we’ll cut to the chase, because we know what everyone really wants is the cute factor. And there is plenty of that to go around these days.

The newest Iroquois puppies are the SA litter born in August to young Driver–once a pupposauraus himself and now a pack member–and the great hunting lady Sage. Last time you saw them, they were mere beans compared to what they are now. Here they are then:

Some of the SA puppies back in August. Gene Baker photo.

Now they’re just full of beans, as you can see:

A pair of the SA puppies at play on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.

The six SA puppies are doing well, kennel manager Michael Edwards tells us, and we’re still impressed by all the color they have on them.

Hello, baby! Dave Traxler photo.

For more on foxhound puppies, we turn to one of the houndbloggers’ favorite authors, D. W. E. Brock, and his book, The A B C of Fox-Hunting, although we disagree with his assertion that foxhound puppies, when newborn “are ugly, blind little things, with huge heads and wise, wrinkled faces.”

Easy there, Brock! He continues in a kinder vein. “But, after that, they become vastly more interesting little fellows,” he writes. “They grow quickly, but their heads always seem about two sizes too big for their bodies, and, unlike most other puppies, they seldom lose their solemn looks. …

“A foxhound puppy is one of the most amusing and lovable companions it is possible to imagine, and the games which a couple will play together are almost human in their ingenuity. But at the same time it is one of the most mischievous and destructive companions, and unless you, your family and your servants, both indoor and out, are genuinely fond of animals, and are long-suffering, you should not walk a puppy.”

Ah, yes. The houndbloggers and their house hounds nod knowingly at that advice, remembering the arrival of some of the HA puppies earlier this year. Harry, in particular, found the episode Rather Trying, he recalls (see lower left of photo):

"They're still here," Harry said 24 hours later.

The houndbloggers (who have no servants, indoors or outdoors) well remember their first day with us (of a very brief stay). I had had to attend a horse sale, and so Mr. Houndblogger bravely agreed to stay home and babysit the three HA puppies we’d taken in. I’ll never forget the scene when I returned: Mr. Houndblogger was slumped wearily in a chair in the kitchen, where he’d barricaded himself and the HA puppies to prevent further damage to the furniture and carpets. He was wearing wellies, a concession to the inevitable when you have a marauding trio of unhousetrained puppies on the loose. He was stippled from knees to collar with muddy pawprints, and one sweater cuff was slightly unraveled. It had been, I gathered, a Long Day.

The puppies, of course, bounded over to me merrily, eager for more games.

So what of the HA puppies today, nearing their first birthday? Take a look at them now.

Three of the HAs at the kennel on September 15. Dave Traxler photo.

They’ve started their walks out with huntsman Lilla Mason, and, my, how they’ve grown!

Hanbury (left) and Hardboot on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.

Whyte-Melville might have been looking at them when he wrote

On the straightest of legs and the roundest of feet,

With ribs like a frigate his timbers to meet,

With a fashion and fling and a form so complete,

that to see him dance over the flags is a treat.”

We haven’t yet seen these young hounds over the flags, but, more importantly, they float over the grass, Lilla reports.

Hawksbridge--light on his feet, like all the HAs! Photo by Dave Traxler.

Hamlet and Cice Bowers in July. Dave Traxler photo.

Halo and Leslie Penn on a Sept. 10 walk. Dave Traxler photo.

As grown-up as they look, though, the HAs are still puppies at heart!

Havoc (left) and Hardboot with a prize earlier this month. Dave Traxler photo.

Harboot on a roll. Dave Traxler photo.

A few days ago, re-reading Beckford’s Thoughts on Hunting, we came across a curious footnote.

“I have seen fox-hounds that were bred out of a Newfoundland bitch and a fox-hound dog,” Beckford wrote. “They are monstrously ugly, are said to give their tongues sparingly, and to tire soon. The experiment has not succeeded: the cross most likely to be of service to a fox-hound is the beagle. I am well convinced that a handsome, bony, tender-nosed, stout beagle would, occasionally, be no improper cross for a high-bred pack of fox-hounds.”

Hmmm! No, no, we wouldn’t suggest it seriously, but, for the purposes of the blog at any rate the houndbloggers are very well disposed to include some beagles. And, as it happens, the beagles have been having their own puppies lately. The Clear Creek Beagles, with whom we hunt as often as we can on foot, have some puppies that whipper-in Jean MacLean was kind enough to photograph:

A bouquet of threeagles, as photographed by CCB whipper-in Jean MacLean.

And two moregles, also photographed by Jean MacLean.

There are some older puppies, too, who show a French influence in their names. the C litter features Chauffeur:

Chauffeur. Photo by Jean MacLean.

… and our favorite names, Chien (dog) and Chaton (kitten)!

The aptly named Chien. Jean MacLean photo.

The Clear Creek Beagles started their informal hunt season this morning, and the Iroquois foxhounds will take to the hunt field in early October. And before long the puppies from both packs will be doing this …

The Clear Creek pack in action. Jean MacLean photo.

… and this …

The Iroquois hounds move off from the Foxtrot meet. Dave Traxler photo.

As always, the houndbloggers will do their best to keep up with the hounds and provide reports on their progress!

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Samson’s baby pictures

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

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

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

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

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

Belvoir Bellman and Cottesmore Samson walking in England with Nina Camm

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

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

Samson, as photographed by Dave Traxler in December 2010.

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

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

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

Samson in profile. Dave Traxler photo.

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

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

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

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

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

Will do, Nina!

Puppy Show! Behind the scenes at the Berkeley Hunt

The Berkeley Hunt, one of England's most renowned packs. The Masters and hunt staff wear yellow coats with green collars, which represent the indoor and outdoor liveries of the Berkeley family.

The Berkeley Hunt, one of England's most renowned packs. The Masters and hunt staff wear yellow coats with green collars, which represent the historic indoor and outdoor liveries of the Berkeley family. Photo courtesy of Sarah Jones and the Berkeley Hunt.

Hunt season might not start until the fall, but midsummer is plenty busy for working foxhound packs. One highlight of the season: the annual puppy show, when hunts parade their new entry for judges and local landowners, taking the occasion to thank the puppy-walkers who have helped raise those hounds in their own homes before returning them to the kennels for hunt training.

We’ve found an excellent depiction both of puppy-walking and the puppy show tradition in England, thanks to Great Britain’s wonderful Horse and Country television channel.

VIDEO LINK: For the moment, we’re having trouble embedding the video directly here, but until we solve that issue you can easily view the episode at http://www.horseandcountry.tv/episode/berkeley-english-country-estate-episode-5 Note that there is a short ad for Horse and Country at the beginning, which might make you think you’ve gotten the wrong show. You haven’t!

Horse and Country has been following activities at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, home of the Berkeley Hunt, in a series of documentaries. The Berkeley’s pack is one of the best in the world and is England’s oldest, dating back to the 12th century. Much of Horse and Country’s documentary series on Berkeley Castle deals with the estate’s care, daily life, and renovations, but the pack gets some good airtime! Episode Five covers the puppy-walkers and the puppy show in good detail and offers lots of beautiful scenery–both canine and countryside–to boot.

The Berkeley hounds today hark back to the oldest bloodlines in England, as described at the hunt’s website:

There are 6 main male lines in existence, 4 of which can be found in the Berkeley kennel. The 6 main roots are Mr Meynall’s Stormer 1791, The Earl of Yarborough’s Bumper 1743, Lord Darlington’s Benedict 1812, Glog Nimrod 1904, The Earl of Scarborough’s Saladin 1830 and Geilligaer Topper 1916. In the Foxhound world most will have heard of the celebrated Tiverton Actor 1922. He is a descendant of The Earl of Yarborough’s Bumper 1743 whose line is the oldest in the Foxhound Kennel studbook. Berkeley is full of Actor blood going back through Duke of Beaufort Ardent 1930. This line is a great example of how careful line breeding can produce superlative progeny with plenty of drive and longevity.

With such a long history, it’s no surprise the Berkeley family has some colorful characters. One who has left behind some fun sporting stories is the Hon. George Charles Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley, youngest son of the 5th Earl of Berkeley. He resided for much of his hunting career in Buckinghamshire, where he hunted both stag and fox. He was also, as one biographer put it, “a well-known if somewhat eccentric member of society.” Grantley Berkeley’s mode of dress alone, which Herbert Maxwell called “a coarser kind of buckish coxcombry,” was attention-grabbing: “He delighted in wearing  at the same time two or three different-colored satin under-waistcoats, and round his throat three or four gaudy silk neckerchiefs, held together by passing the ends of them through a gold ring.”

However odd his wardrobe, Berkeley knew hounds. In 1854, he published Reminiscences of a Huntsman, chock full of amazing stories from the hunt field. An example from his stag-hunting adventures:

The chase … frequently ended in mansions, cottages, or barns, and I cannot help but saying that, in almost every instance, I met with the greatest good nature. On one of these occasions we ran up to the entrance of a gentleman’s kitchen, in the rear of his premises, and the hounds bayed at the closed door. Heads of domestics through the pantry window informed me that the stag was in the house, and that they would admit me ‘if I would keep the dogs out, as the children were afraid of them.’ The door being opened and closed carefully behind me, I went in, ushered by a butler, and peeped at by many maids; and, on asking where the stag was, the butler replied that he had been in all the lower offices, and when he last saw him he was going up the drawing-room stairs. … The butler introduced me to the drawing-room, but neither master nor stag were in it, when at that moment a door at the other end opened, and the owner of the house came in, under visible though suppressed excitement. I began all sorts of apologies, as usual, and for a moment the gentleman was civil enough. But on my asking where the stag was, all restraint gave way, and in a fury he replied, ‘Your stag, sir, not content with walking through every office, has been here, sir, here in my drawing-room, sir, whence he proceeded upstairs to the nursery, and, damn me, sir, he’s now in Mrs. ——-‘s boudoir!'”

Grantley Berkeley formed his own first pack at the age of 30 in the Bedfordshire country by receiving older hounds drafted from notable hunts. One of his favorite early hounds was Stamford, whose provenance he couldn’t quite remember by the time he wrote of him many years later: “Old Stamford’s soft and prolonged note, when he found a fox, sweeps by my ear now: and often and often had I to cheer the young ones to him throughout my first fox-hunting season. What he must have been in his youth … I can easily guess; and if these pages meet the eye of the gentleman who bred him, he will accept this tribute to the memory of as gallant, as sensible, and as attached and faithful a hound as ever killed a fox.  … I shall never forget how proud that old hound was when he found I petted him, and that he was still to be treated with all the ceremony and usages of a well-ordered foxhound kennel. And when we began cub-hunting, his alert dignity and industry was so great that he still more won my heart.”

This respect for a hound’s work ethic is key to the breeding  today at the Berkeley Hunt, which says “looks come second to performance, for a good-looking hound is nothing if it cannot hunt.”

For more information about the Berkeley Hunt and its hounds, view the hunt’s history page, which details both the hunt’s background and its breeding philosophy.