Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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The Berkeley Hunt at Thornbury

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The Berkeley Hunt (pronounced Barkley!) is said to be the oldest pack of foxhounds in England, harking back to the twelfth century. The pack is still owned by the Berkeley family. The Fifth Earl of Berkeley could hunt his hounds from Berkeley Castle to Berkeley Square in London and had kennels along the route. The season would start in Berkeley and progress to each of his kennels to London and then in stages back again to Gloucestershire. The present kennels date from the early eighteenth century.

The photos in this report were taken by Simon Clare on Boxing Day in Thornbury, an ancient market town in the west of England near Bristol, about 125 miles west of London.

Foxhounds and Greyhounds; Scent and Sight; The Ultimate Pack

IMG_4911The Shawnee Hounds set out into big, open country for a tiring day in the mud. (Foreground) Master and huntsman Dr. Mark Smith, (background, l-r) Lee Carson, Courtney Carson and guest Jeffie McAfoo  /  Sue Brandt photoThe Shawnee Hounds (IL) Mannings fixture was challenging to hunt this day—substantial ditches, wide open fields that were muddy and quickly sapped the horses' strength, and large wheat fields that had to be circumnavigated to stay in the farmers' good graces. This made it difficult for the whippers-in as well as those who had to stay further out in order to not lose the pack on a big run. The large woods that we normally would avoid due to being leased by deer hunters were open now that deer season was over.

This hunt was further challenged by too much of a good thing—lots of coyotes! They were everywhere, and I doubt I can remember all the views of different coyotes seen and by whom.

The Galway Blazers at Athenry

Joint_Master_David_McCarthyJoint-Master David McCarthy over one of what sporting artist Snaffles called "The Biggest Walls."  /  Noel Mullins photoA meet of the Galway Blazers around the medieval walled town of Athenry, County Galway in the heart of the hunt country is not to be missed. Before traffic congested the town centre, meets were traditionally held at Higgins’ Bar. Masters and huntsmen would be served a stirrup cup by the proprietor Brendan Higgins who, with his sister Mary Josephine (my mother), hunted with the pack.

Was This a Good Season, or What?

20120210144326_IMG_0550Genesee Valley hounds going home from their one hundredth hunt of the season after running their fox in and out of a swamp for nearly two hours. (l-r) whipper-in Erica Hutten, Master and huntsman Marion Thorne, and whipper-in and hunt secretary Janice Barrett. / Bill Gamble photoThe Genesee Valley Hunt (NY) celebrated a new record for their hunt on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, when they completed their one hundredth hunt of the season. True, the eastern part of the country has been blessed with an easy winter, but equally true is that their hunting country sits astride the same latitude as Buffalo, New York!

Located in a northern clime, the Genesee Valley Hunt decided long ago to simply ignore the weather. The only generally acceptable causes for cancellation are lightning—you never want to be sitting on a horse shod with steel shoes in a lightning storm—or when the Genesee River freezes over. Of course, the hunt’s geographic location is advantageous in the summer where they are able to start cubhunting in mid-July.