Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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The Dawgs of Dixie

willie poole.jim atkins.leesDouglas Lees photo

In 1989, ghosts of the Great Hound Match of 1905 were awakened from their long slumber in the Piedmont Fox Hounds country of Virginia when Ben Hardaway, MFH of the Midland Fox Hounds (GA), brought his pack of Crossbreds (English crosses on American July bloodlines) to duel on alternating hunting days with Piedmont’s pack of Crossbreds (English crosses on old Virginia bloodlines).

Piedmont huntsman Jim Atkins (right), who passed away just this year, hunted the home pack. The colorful author/journalist Willy Poole (left) came from England to cover the match for the Daily Telegraph, whose weekend headline proclaimed, “Let Slip the Dixie Dawgs of War!”

Poole was awarded the O.B.E. by his queen for services to journalism and rural affairs in 2001. Three years later the Hunting Act was passed banning foxhunting in England, and Poole, who always marched to his own drummer, protested in his own way by moving to Normandy.

Posted October 13, 2013

Foxhunter/Patriot to Be Honored in Bronze

jonas cattellJonas Cattell from "Memoirs of the Gloucester Foxhunting Club" by William Milnor, Jr., Philadelphia, 1830Jonas Cattell, foxhunter and revolutionary hero, will be honored with a seven-foot bronze statue to be erected in Haddonfield, New Jersey. We foxhunters know about Cattell’s exploits in the hunting field thanks to Alexander Mackay-Smith’s classic book, The American Foxhound: 1747–1967, but I never knew about Cattell’s heroism during the American Revolution. He turned the misfortune of his arrest by Hessian mercenaries into advantage for the Colonial cause.

Cattell whipped-in for the Gloucester Foxhunting Club, the first organized foxhunting club in North America. It was founded in 1766 by a group of Philadelphia gentlemen and named for Gloucester County, New Jersey, directly across the Delaware River. According to Mackay-Smith, quoting Clifton Lisle describing their sport, “When Cupid, the huntsman who succeeded Old Natty, was in the saddle with Jonas Cattell whipping-in to him, amazing runs were made.”

“In 1798, for example, one is recorded that went to Salem, a distance of forty miles by the map from find to kill. Another ended on the ice of the Delaware, a Jersey fox crossing it with fifteen couple of hounds not a hundred yards from his brush—to be rolled over just short of the Jersey shore. Robert Wharton, president of the club at that time, was the first man up, next to Jonas Cattell, the whipper-in, who had crossed the river on foot.”

Eddie Arcaro Goes Foxhunting

eddie arcaroHall of Fame jockey Eddie ArcaroEddie Arcaro (1916–1997) is regarded by many as the greatest jockey in the history of American Thoroughbred racing. He tallied more wins in classic stakes races than any other jockey and is the only jock to have won the Triple Crown twice—Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948). He has the most wins of any jockey in the Belmont (six) and the Preakness (six) and is tied with Bill Hartack for Kentucky Derby wins (five). He won 4,779 of his 24,092 races and earned a record setting $30 million in purses.

On November 23, 1954 Arcaro experienced his first foxhunt when he appeared at a meet of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in Philomont, Virginia, as reported by Liz Smith in Sports Illustrated’s December 27 issue of that year:

The Fell Foxes of Dove Crag

dove crag 1Dove Crag in the rugged Lake District of Cumbria, England

A sheep trod wove its way up the steep fell side, gaining height with an ease unmatched by any route a human could devise. Following it and climbing all the time I skirted small outcrops of rock, crossed a stream full of melt-snow water at the best point to do so, and finally arrived on the ridge. Stopping to catch my breath, for although the route to a sheep would have been easy this human was very unfit, I gazed at the view in front of me. My horizon was filled with snow covered peaks under a bright blue sky. Warm sunlight bathed the ridge and gave a small crag to my left a sharpness normally unseen.

The Coniston foxhounds had disappeared to god knows where, and had been gone for some time. I’d watched them climb the fell side I now stood on. It had been a beautiful sight as they climbed, in a line, like as someone put it “a hound trail.” Their music had carried down the valley, growing fainter as they crested the ridge and then as they dropped into the next valley it disappeared altogether, leaving an eerie silence.