On March 4 & 5th 2023, Wicomico Hunt Club hosted the first ever All Maryland Masters of the Foxhounds Association (“MFHA”) Performance Trials on Wye Island. This performance trial brought together not just Penn-Marydel hounds (as in prior years), but the full chorus/compliment of diversity found in Free State packs: crossbred and American hounds.
Fun Fact: the first foxhounds in the Americas were brought to the colony of Maryland by Robert Brooke in the mid-1600s, making Maryland the cradle of foxhunting in America.
Initially, only Maryland-based packs that were MFHA recognized were invited, with a limit of five hounds and six mounted participants (including the huntsman). However, when Potomac Hunt declined the invitation, organizers were able to include one of the MFHA registered packs.
Participating were De La Brooke Foxhounds, Elkridge-Harford Hunt, Goshen Hounds, Green Spring Valley Hounds, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds, Marlborough Hunt, Mt. Carmel Hounds, New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds, and Wicomico Hunt. Forty-some rode out in First Flight, with the rest either in Second Flight or “Hilltoppers” (except that there are no hills on this island).
While Wicomico is known for hunting primarily Penn-Marydels and for hosting Penn-Marydel trials, this All-Maryland Performance Trial was open to all foxhound breeds. In the end, the crossbreds seemed to adapt the best to the somewhat contrived yet convivial circumstances.
Judging were the esteemed Fred Berry as president, along with the seasoned veterans Chris Moll (Sedgefield Hunt), Barbara Smith (Bull Run Hunt, Marlborough Hunt, and Thorton Hill Hounds) and Rosie Campbell, ex-MFH (Bull Run Hunt), plus Bull Run whipper-in Toni-Anne Gambale as an apprentice judge.
Performance Trials are an attempt to measure whether individual hounds have certain traits universally considered desirable in a good hunting hound and are considered necessary in a good pack of foxhounds. Judges are monitoring the four critical traits: 1) hunting - the persistent search for game; 2) trailing - the act of actually following the game at a distance while giving voice and simultaneously driving towards the quarry; 3) full cry - this is the actual chase that is what gets our blood up, raises the hair on our arms, makes our soul tremble, and brings tears to our eyes; and 4) marking - accounting for the hunted quarry, causing it to go to ground. Hounds are also awarded exemplary points when showing extreme talent but likewise can be penalized.
Host hunt Wicomico took home top honors as both Best Hunt overall and for the Overall Top Hound, “Rudy”, a 2020 dog by Mount Carmel’s Penn-Marydel “Rascal” out of Carrollton’s American “Buzzy”. “Rudy’s” strong points on day one kept both him and his pack at the top overall.
Howard County-Iron Bridge’s “Winter” performed consistently on both days, earning her the overall #2 spot for the weekend. With the exception of top hound “Rudy”, “Winter” was far ahead of the rest of the overall pack. And like “Rudy” on day one, she earned strong honorary pointIn fact, all of the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds were consistent performers, a level pack on each day of the trial. This earned Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds the overall #2 spot, which is also a testament to the 40-year breeding program of that hunt’s now-retired MFH, Dr. Roger Scullin. Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds was the only club to have three hounds in the top ten.
In third place was Greenspring Valley Hounds. Both hounds that appeared in the top 10, 8th placed “Lester” and 10th placed “Pistol” are crossbreds of five generations of Greenspring Valley Hounds, with some sprinkles of Eglinton & Caledon and Elkridge Harford way back there! While not scoring quite as well as the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds, the Greenspring Valley Hounds were nevertheless consistent and level.
After three days of sport and comradery that included a whip-cracking contest, a horn-blowing contest, and an official poet laureate, the well-fed guest packs motored back over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. All resolved to do it again in two years!
Author Crystal Brumme Pickett ex MFH is the founder and former publisher of The Equiery; photographs compliments of Tisa Della Volpe Photography and Karen Kandra. To purchase photos, please contact Karen Kandra via Facebook or visit www.tisadellavolpe.com.
Orginially published on April 2, 2023.