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westmeath hounds and staff.mullinsWestmeath Foxhounds (IR) and staff: huntsman Mark Ollard (rt) and whipper-in Adam Douabbse. John Smith and Frano Derwin follow / Noel Mullins photo

The Westmeath Foxhounds, located in the Midlands of Ireland, was founded in 1854. It has had many illustrious Masters over the years such as Sam Reynell (1835-91), the Earls of Longford (1890s), Hon. Kieran Guinness (1973-76), Sir Dermot and Lady Molly Cusack Smith (1949-50), and Harry Worcester Smith (1912-13) from the USA (no relation to Sir Dermot).

Smith wanted to prove that American hounds and Thoroughbred horses could handle the Irish hunting country as well as the native horses and hounds. He was disappointed on both counts. First, the Westmeath hunt committee insisted he hunt the local pack, and second, though he was a brave and competent rider, he notched over fifty falls off his Thoroughbred horses in the course of the season!

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PHOTO HOUNDS County Louth Old English hound shown by huntsman Alan ReillyPair of Old English hounds. County Louth hound (foreground) shown by huntsman Alan Reilly / Noel Mullins photo

The Irish National Hound Show at Stradbally Hall, County Laois, Ireland keeps growing in both entries and spectators. This year the weather also played a positive role as hound enthusiasts were often three deep along the ringside, and a large number lingered and socialised long after the show was over.

Competition was keen in the foxhound ring where judge Nigel Peel, a well-known hunting correspondent himself (and a member of Foxhunting Life’s Panel of Experts), commented that the Old English hounds were some of the finest he has judged either in Ireland or in the UK, and the Modern English Hounds had real quality as well.

The Old English (or Traditionally-Bred) hounds and the Modern English hounds are judged separately in their own classes, but the winners of those classes come up against each other in the final championship classes for dogs and bi*ches.* On occasion the Old English hounds being bred today will prevail.

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The Westmeath Foxhounds based in the midlands of Ireland was founded in 1854 and is one of the most popular

Grafton Staff in Ireland: Tom Jenner on Sir Ritchie, Harry Worcester-Smith on Success, Jackie Brown on The Cad

foxhunting packs in Ireland. They have had a distinguished succession of Joint-Masters over the years, but one of the most flamboyant arrived at the Irish kennels from the USA in 1912 with a retinue that caused quite a stir in the neighbourhood.

The new Master’s entourage included sixteen Thoroughbred horses, a pack of American hounds, five African-American grooms, a yellow open-top sports car, a yellow sulky, and three fighting cocks. His name was Harry Worcester-Smith, MFH of the Grafton Hounds in Massachusetts. He was even better known for the 1905 Great Foxhound Match in the Piedmont Valley with Mr. Alexander Henry Higginson’s English hounds, mainly of Fernie origin.

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