Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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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.

Always Pack a Ham Sandwich

Mark McManus.huntsman and hounds2.ECHEglinton and Caledon Hounds with current huntsman, Mark McManus.The Eglinton and Caledon Hounds (ON) have long been noted for excellent live hunting. Drag hunting has been considered on occasions, but the decision has always been made to stay with pursuing the plentiful live coyotes in the hunt club’s southern countryside. It is not surprising then that the one attempt to incorporate some drag hunting with live hunting did not go according to plan.

The occasion was at one of the meets during the highly successful Ontario Festival of Hunting. The biennial Festival was spearheaded by the late Walter Pady, MFH of the Toronto and North York Hunt with the support of the five Ontario and and Quebec clubs during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Meynellian Science

 

meynell.loraine smithHugo Meynell (seated), in his later years, with his huntsman Jack Raven and a favorite hound Glider. / Engraving after a 1794 painting by Charles Loraine Smith

The father of English foxhunting was Hugo Meynell, founder of the Quorn, who began hunting hounds from his Leicestershire seat Quorn Hall in 1753. He developed the science of hunting the fox at speed in the open, made possible by the clearing of forests and the enclosure of land.