Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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British-Inspired Rabbit Hunt Took an Odd Turn

california hare.audubonCalifornia hare by John J. Audubon

The early part of the last century saw the people of Riverside, California looking towards Great Britain for inspiration for their leisure activities.

This was chiefly because of the many British immigrants who had begun arriving here about 1889, primarily to invest in, among other things, the fast-growing orange industry. English customs were held in the highest esteem, especially among socially ambitious Americans, Tom Patterson wrote in his book, A Colony for California.

Riversiders engaged in such British activities as polo, high tea, and foxhunting. The latter did not usually include a fox, because foxes were not common in the area. Instead they substituted a more common animal, the jackrabbit. These hunts were conducted wherever a large area of open land could accommodate horses, hunters, hounds, and the prey.

Elliott Roosevelt, MFH

elliott rooseveltThis portrait of Elliott Roosevelt, MFH of the Meadow Brook Hunt, Long Island, NY, was painted in watercolor by Max Klepper in 1915. Roosevelt was the father of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. (Yes, that was her maiden name as well.)

The Master led his field over thick and unyielding post-and-rail fences that started at four feet and went up from there. The poem at the bottom of the painting reads as follows:

With the Meadow Brook Hunt they were always in front,
And fearless of all disaster.
Over bar and gate, they would lead us straight,
Old Mohawk — and his Master.

Posted March 5, 2014

Drag Hunting: From Racing to Simulating the Hunt

louise and thomas hitchcock.aiken houndsMrs. Louise Eustis Hitchcock, MFH and huntsman of the Aiken Drag Hunt and Mr. Thomas Hitchcock / Courtesy Hitchcock Woods Foundation

Drag hunting was once a gloriously competitive sport, the roots of which go back to seventeenth-century England. During the reign of King James I (1603–1625), it began as  a sport known as running a train scent. A “drag was laid, hounds were put on the line, and ran it at a racing pace. The horse in the lead at the end of the drag was declared the winner,” wrote the late Alexander Mackay-Smith in his Foxhunting in North America.
Later in the same century, during the reign of King Charles II (1649–1685) , a gentleman could enter his hound or hounds to compete for the Woodstock Plate, a race for hounds following a four-mile drag as a test of both the hound’s speed and its ability to follow a scent. When houndsmen and spectators discovered that the best and, not incidentally, the most enjoyable way to follow the hound race was on horseback, the sport of drag hunting was born according to John Philip Hore in his History of Newmarket.

Even Hugo Meynell, the father of modern foxhunting, played his part in drag-hunting history when, in 1763, he participated in a celebrated hound match in the form of a drag hunt between his Quorn Foxhounds and those of Mr. Barry’s Cheshire Foxhounds. By the nineteenth century, the notion of a guaranteed, sustained gallop over jumps appealed to many sportsmen, especially those who mainly hunted to ride.

Night Hunting with Dad

night hunt

This is a true story as best as I can recollect. I was about six or seven years old that night, but as you can imagine this was a story told and retold around many a local foxhunter’s fire for many years thereafter.                                                                                    

Dad often took me foxhunting with him when I was little. I don’t have many memories of those hunts other than falling asleep in the back of whatever old car dad had at the time. The foxhunting that dad and his friends participated in did not involve horses or fancy scarlet coats. Their steeds were Ford and Chevy, GM and Oldsmobile; the uniforms worn were usually whatever work clothes they had been wearing that morning.