Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Fox Hounds

Entering Young Hounds

What follows is an excerpt from the author’s excellent book, Letters to a Young Huntsman.

3hounds.leesFoxhounds of the Orange County Hounds (VA)  /  Douglas Lees photo

We would start roading (mounted hound exercise) around the middle of July. I really wanted the youngsters off couples by this time as a couple wrapped around a horse’s leg can be an ugly thing. Once puppies are used to going out with the horses, then it’s time to start introducing them to things like sheep, deer, cattle, etc.

This should be done as low key as possible; the worst thing you can do is make a big deal of it. If you have staff swinging whips and speaking loudly to the hounds, it’s only going to jazz them up. If you stay relaxed and cool, the hounds will pick up on that and remain cool themselves. Theses are things that they will see every day out hunting and everyone has to act accordingly.

Casting Hounds at a Loss

tom smith cast2The Tom Smith castComing soon: hounds speak confidently in covert; the whipper-in on the far side lifts his cap to the sky; and hounds burst into the open in full cry.

Suddenly all of life is in motion. Your head fills with the sights and sounds of the chase—the cry of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, the thud of hooves, the wind in your ears. Bliss. Then it all goes quiet.

The pack fractures, hounds searching for the lost line. The huntsman gives them a chance to recover it on their own. He doesn’t want the line to go cold, nor does he want hounds to lift their heads and look to him for help every time they are at fault. Hounds make their own swing. The huntsman weighs all the factors—wind, scenting conditions, time passing, landscape, how the foxes have run here in the past. He decides to make a cast.

The Tom Smith Cast

tom smith cast2Coming soon: hounds speak confidently in covert; the whipper-in on the far side lifts his cap to the sky; and hounds burst into the open in full cry.

Suddenly all of life is in motion. Your head fills with the sights and sounds of the chase—the cry of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, the thud of hooves, the wind in your ears. Bliss. Then it all goes quiet.

The pack fractures, hounds searching for the lost line. The huntsman gives them a chance to recover it on their own. He doesn’t want the line to go cold, nor does he wants hounds to lift their heads and look to him for help every time they are at fault. Hounds make their own swing. The huntsman weighs all the factors—wind, scenting conditions, time passing, landscape, how the foxes have run here in the past. He decides to make a cast.

Four of Fifty-Five American Dog Breeds Hunt the Fox

foxhound.americanAmerican Foxhound

Dogs, wolf-like canids believed to be related to an extinct species of wolf, are known to have been with us for 15,000 to 35,000 years. Humans from Siberia who crossed the Bering Strait when still a land bridge more than 10,000 years ago are believed to have had dogs in their company. Those dogs perhaps even made the human migration possible by pulling sleds. These are thought to be the common primogenitors to all American dog breeds.

Another huge influence on American breeds, and substantially more recent, were those pets and working dogs brought to America by early explorers and colonists. Many of these immigrant dogs most likely bred with native American dogs, creating still more new types to be ultimately bred for special purposes and domesticated further.