Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Squire Osbaldeston: A Sporting Prodigy

squire osbaldeston.Sir Frances Holyoake Goodricke.1830.John FERNELEYSquire Osbaldeston, MFH (foreground) on Ashton, with Sir Frances Holyoake-Goodricke on Crossbow, 1830, hunting the Pytchley in Melton Mobray, Leicestershire, England. Oil painting  by John Ferneley

London-born in 1786, George Osbaldeston was a natural athlete. He rowed for various schools that he attended, including Eton and Oxford, neither of which he matriculated. He assiduously avoided academic work, but set high standards for rowdy behavior and was expelled from most of these fine institutions.

He was an outstanding cricketeer, bowling and batting as an amateur in numerous important matches. In 1818, however, he was barred for life from membership in a club as the result of an intemperate outburst, effectively finishing his career in important cricket matches.

Hugo Meynell: The Father of Modern Foxhunting

hugo meynellHugo Meynell is known today as the father of modern mounted foxhunting. In the eighteenth century he transformed a sporting activity which attempted to control vermin with the slow and plodding Southern hound into an exhilarating chase at speed with fleeter Northern hounds and a scientific approach. In so doing, he set the stage for foxhunting’s Golden Age in the early nineteenth century.

The great Mr. Meynell, designated by his admiring friends “The King of Sportsmen,” or “The Hunting Jupiter,” earned those titles by the sport he had shown. Without owning an acre of land in Leicestershire (his extensive estates being situated in remoter countries), he carried on [his sport in that] best hunting country in the world.

He considered horses merely as vehicles to the hounds. There are different opinions as to Mr. Meynell’s proficiency as an elegant horseman; but it is never disputed that his progress over a country was, like the whole course of his life, straightforward.

Ancestors In The Dark

north downs way kent.frenchNorth Downs Way, Kent, England

The light fades fast on a December day in the rolling chalk hills, the centuries-old beech woods, and the ancient countryside of the North Downs in the county of Kent in England. It is Roman country...old Roman country. The Roman presence can still be seen and felt there. Watling Street, now a motorway, was built by the Romans to conduct their chariots from the chalk cliffs of the coast at Dover to old Londinium. London today, of course. Straight as an arrow and solid as the rock foundations on which it was built. In places, you can still see the wheel ruts worn down by the centuries of travel.

Here too, in the well-trodden countryside, ancient history's presence is felt as the Pilgrim's Way meanders through the landscape from Winchester to the Thomas Becket shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. Much of the route of the Pilgrims Way follows an ancient track dating back to 500 BC.

A Christmas Day Hunt on Old Cape Cod

Born in Shanghai, China in 1870, the author of this story crossed the Pacific Ocean with his sea-going father three times by the age of four. A goat was carried aboard ship to provide him with milk. Nason Hamlin was the first recording secretary of the Norfolk Hunt and a member of the field on Norfolk’s first day with hounds in 1896. He took to hunting and polo with exuberance, but his hand-written records are more often expressed in seaman’s jargon than in the language of foxhunting. Here’s Hamlin’s record (abridged) of a Christmas Day live hunt on Cape Cod (pp 27–29, "The Norfolk Hunt: One Hundred Years of Sport" by Norman Fine).

nason hamlin

Soapy Sponge, my new dappled-gray runaway, was yet to demonstrate his worth. On Christmas morn, 1899, just as the sun was peeping over the hill, Captain Samuel D. Parker, MFH was hunting the hounds at Eastham, away down on Cape Cod. It was a frosty, sharp morn and hounds were thrown in at the swamp lands fringing the ponds on the bay-side somewhere opposite Billingsgate Island. Shortly we heard a whimper from one hound, and almost immediately the pack took up the find and crashed away in the direction of the shore.

There were some skeptical suggestions that dead fish were the lure, but dead fish by themselves don’t travel, and when the entire pack kept running along the water’s edge in full cry in a northeast point, we all were convinced it was the real thing after all.