Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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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.

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

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