Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Foxhunting in North America: A Brief History

Here is a concise history of foxhunting in North America from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, tracing the sport from its Colonial beginnings to organized foxhunting as we know it today. The work constitutes part of the first chapter in A Centennial View, published by the MFHA to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Association.

washington  fairfaxGeorge Washington and Lord Fairfax hunting in the Shenandoah Valley

Hunting in the Colonies (1600s to 1775)
If you were a second son to a family of landed gentry living in the English countryside during the seventeenth or eighteenth century, you would have found your prospects considerably dimmer than those of your elder brother. Precluded, through the laws of primogeniture, from inheriting your father’s estate, you might have been tempted by land grants offered by the Colonial governors of Maryland or Virginia to emigrate, settle in the New World, and make your fortune there.

If you had an adventurous soul, you might have packed up your family, children, furniture, and, of course, a few of your foxhounds, and embarked on the voyage. Along with those tangible items, you would have brought your rural culture and a hunting heritage to these Provinces. By carrying on your habitual pursuits, you would make Maryland and Virginia the cradle of North American foxhunting.

From Horses to Hounds: Following the Seasons

mhc13Professor Maxwell lands cleanly at fence 3 of the Maryland Hunt Cup. / Douglas Lees photo

The hunt point-to-points are over, and Foxhunting Life ends its season’s coverage with a report on the Maryland Hunt Cup. We report on these races because they are foxhunting-related; amateur riders compete, and many of these racehorses also serve as field hunters. And what field hunters they are! Click to read Anne Hambleton's article, "Thoroughbreds: Kings of the Hunting Field."

With the racing and Thoroughbred journals now covering the sanctioned races, FHL switches its focus from horses to hounds. We start our hound show reports with the Southern Hound Show, first of the season. We’ll report on the Southwestern Hound Show next week. Follow our coverage; learn more about hounds. We generally focus on the grand champion of show, and we always find a good story to tell!

Posted May 4, 2013

Foxhounds With a Difference

nodh.klmMr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA) boasts a sporting field of superb horsemen and women that love to gallop and take their own lines over the post-and-rail line fences in their country. Seven years ago, the Cheshire Masters and staff embarked on a bold experiment to breed a new foxhound for that country. Our feature article below tells of their decision to cross the The Old English (also called the Traditionally-Bred English) foxhound and the Penn-Marydel foxhound.

Their plan was a gamble because the two breeds are about as dissimilar in type as foxhounds get, and the crossing of the two types would produce litters that varied greatly from pup to pup. However, the Cheshire Masters and huntsman believed that the strong points of each type would tend to compensate for the perceived weaknesses in the other and result in a foxhound superior to either type.

Here are some examples of the perceived differences between the types. Just remember that generalizations are only generally valid!

Peer Pressure

EmmyEmmy LouHounds are fascinating to watch, even after so many years at this game. Consider a recent Carrollton (MD) hound exercise, for example.

We were exercising the pack around the kennels and introduced our new entry, Emmy Lou, a blue tick Penn-Marydel that was recently drafted from a hunt in the Carolinas. I picked her up last week from Doc Addis who transported her for us from the Huntsman's Weekend down in Emporia, Virginia. She is a pretty, petite thing—timid—but seems to have loads of personality. We have all fallen in love with her, and she is getting used to her new home.

As we walked out, she ran about sniffing and exploring with the pack. Occasionally we had to tell her to "pack in," which she readily responded to. At one point as we were going up a rise, deer bounded out of the woods to our right. I turned to face our pack, and huntsman Dulany Noble told them to "steady up." She counted the deer: one, two, three, and up to eight, not more than fifty yards or less above us. Our pack watched intently but did not break. Suddenly Emmy Lou broke and went after them. My heart sank. Huntsman Dulany told everyone—canine and human alike—to steady up and she raised her new horn to her lips and blew a lovely melodic note. Emmy Lou stopped, turned, and came running back. We were so pleased, but here's the cool thing.

Introducing James Barclay, ex-MFH

james barclayA young James Barclay while Master of the Fitzwilliam Foxhounds (UK)Allow me to introduce James Barclay, a retired Master of Foxhounds in England and descendant of a distinguished foxhunting family. I am pleased and honored to announce that Foxhunting Life will be publishing James’s informative and thoughtful essays in future issues.

James’s family roots are with the Puckeridge Foxhounds, a hunt in Hertfordshire dating back to 1725. His sister has served as Master since 1987. Two brothers, his mother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather also served as Masters of the Puckeridge, that dynasty starting in 1896.

James’s first day of hunting was with the Puckeridge back in the 1960s. He was astride a donkey, and, by tradition, he wore a small version of the family scarlet coat which each family member going back at least three generations had worn on their first hunt!

The Road to the Kentucky Derby

churchill downs2Odds are high that most Foxhunting Life readers will tune in to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May to watch "the most exciting two minutes in sports." It's arguably the finest show of racing talent each year from the horses to the trainers to the jockeys who are all aiming for the glory of winning the Kentucky Derby cup and sharing in the two million dollar purse.

Websites like www.kentuckyderbybetting.com are excellent resources to get you up to date on the background and history of the 'Run for the Roses.' There is also a section on Kentucky Derby horse odds which is invaluable if you are planning on increasing the excitement by having a flutter on your favorite contender this year.

It's easy to get emotionally attached to a horse that you believe can win the big prize. Some foxhunters take the connection even further by buying retired racehorses and giving them a whole new lease on life. Here's a recent FHL article on Thoroughbreds in the hunting field.

The Silver Horn

john weatherford.e.iselin.masonColonel John Weatherford, MFH by Eleanor Iselin MasonGordon Grand is one of my favorite sporting authors, and his short story, “The Silver Horn,” is one of my favorite foxhunting stories. The reader is transported, in the early part of the twentieth century, to “that venerable hotel on Albemarle Street” in London, which we may readily assume is Brown’s Hotel. Colonel John Weatherford, MFH is relating Florence’s story as she told it to him upon their chance meeting in the hotel dining room after breakfast. I have extracted just the kernel of the story to reproduce here.

Returning from the theater and supper [Florence] had drifted off into a sound sleep, from which she was gently and fancifully awakened without sensing the cause. Her watch showed three o’clock. The roar and rumble of London had faded to its lowest murmur. A midsummer moon filtered through and illuminated the street below. What was it that had so illusively awakened the sleeper? Again she listened. The faint mellow note of a hunting horn drifted up from Piccadilly.