Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound


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The Eastern Coyote

coyote1.piferIllustration by Doug PiferEarly in the twentieth century, at the behest of western ranching and agricultural interests that were losing stock to predators, the U.S. Government instituted program after program designed to erase the wolf, grizzly bear, mountain lion, and coyote from the landscape. The programs were mostly successful in their purpose: the wolf, grizzly, and mountain lion were driven nearly to extinction. The coyote, however, was the one predator that not only survived the pressure, but increased its population and its range. How it did that is one of the mysteries of the animal world.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has published an excellent study of the eastern coyote (Wildlife Note 39), which we believe readers—even those familiar with the species—will find substantive and revealing. We republish it here with the kind permission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The eastern coyote has stirred as much interest and emotion as any other animal in Pennsylvania. Seeing a coyote or hearing the howl of this wild, wily animal is a great reward of nature to many people. Others fear this animal just knowing it is in the wild. Some sportsmen dislike coyotes because they think the predators kill too many game animals. Trappers and hunters find coyotes to be especially challenging. Some farmers lose livestock due to coyote predation. The coyote has been referred to as the brush wolf, prairie wolf, coy-dog (misnomer) and eastern coyote.

The eastern coyote, Canis latrans, is found throughout the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Recent research shows the eastern coyote is an immigrant, the origin of which likely involved interbreeding between coyotes and gray wolves. Analysis of DNA suggests coyote-wolf hybridization has occurred. Other studies indicate that the eastern coyote is intermediate in size and shape between gray wolves and western coyotes. As a result, the eastern coyote exhibits different behavior, habitat use, pelt coloration, prey preferences and home-range sizes from its western cousin. The eastern coyote is the largest canine found in Pennsylvania. The following information pertains to the coyote in Pennsylvania and throughout northeastern United States.


William Dunlap: The Walker Foxhound as an Allegory

dunlap“Dunlap” by William Dunlap; foreword by Julia Reed, essay by J. Richard Gruber; Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2006; available at Amazon

William Dunlap is an important contemporary artist of the South with a powerful affinity for southern landscapes and Walker foxhounds. Dunlap’s work may be seen in many prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Collection of the National Gallery of Art.

His book, Dunlap, features more than one hundred works, produced over a thirty-year period. It is published in a trade hardback and a limited edition of two hundred signed, bound-in-linen covers, housed in a matching linen-covered clamshell box. A signed, numbered print featuring four Walker foxhounds is included in the box. The book's cover features a surrealist landscape with a white Walker foxhound, Delta Dog Trot, appearing ready to climb right out of the painting, a nod to nineteenth century trompe l’oeil techniques. The painting, “Delta Dog Trot, Landscape Askew” hangs at the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Dunlap’s grandfather was “a foxhunter of the old school,” Dunlap writes. “He bred and hunted generations of pure blood Walker Hounds. With names like Lucky, Mary, Speck, Sally and Bo, these dogs were all legs, lungs, nose and heart. They lived to run, but spent most of their lives laying around the kennel, eating, sleeping, stretching and occasionally giving off the deep-throated mouth that would send any fox in earshot scurrying for the nearest hole.

Ask the Experts

Downton Abbey's Costume Designer Got It Right!

downton abbey2Lady Mary Crawley, ready for a day's hunting in Downton Abbey's concluding season

According to one of our experts, Downton Abbey’s costume designer got it right. But was it just by luck?

While the “correctness” of one’s foxhunting attire doesn’t help hounds one iota in giving us a good day’s hunting, it’s always fun to wrangle over what’s “correct” and what’s not. Especially when we see faux foxhunting scenes on the screen. So when I saw the images of Lady Mary Crawley and her father Robert, Earl of Grantham dressed to go hunting, I wondered why the costume designer hadn’t checked in with Foxhunting Life’s Panel of Experts first.


Wild Lone: The Story of a Pytchley Fox

wild lone2Everyone to whom I have recommended this book loved it. In Wild Lone: The Story of a Pytchley Fox, the reader experiences the sights and sounds of the woodlands by day, and the silence and stealth of the forest by night—not from our usual vantage point in the saddle, five or six feet above the ground, but down low, nearer the earth, where dry stalks of grass brush past our ears and our noses inhale the musky scent of decaying leaves.

Because the reader becomes acquainted with Rufus when he is whelped and gets to know him and his habits intimately, we feel his pain when he becomes caught in the wire snare and we root for him when pushed by foxhounds. We care about him deeply, because we know and respect him. Yet Rufus is an opportunist and kills whenever he can—birds, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, chickens. He kills so often and so casually that we hardly notice. We feel nothing for these creatures—his quarry—because they are, unlike Rufus, anonymous.

The book’s message is revealed to us by a consummate woodsman: that life and death happen to every creature in the forest, mostly shortly after birth. Nature is harsh, but that is its way. And the pressure put on each species serves to improve the species, for only the best examples (and the luckiest) survive for a fulfilling time—as does Rufus.

The following excerpt, in which the author exercises his full powers of language and imagery, is quite lyrical. Yet, if an adventure story is what you prefer, I promise you won’t be disappointed by Wild Lone.

Our Hunting World

Foxhunting Etiquette


All civilized societies adopt rules of etiquette and conventions that allow individuals to interact without conflict. By the same token, unique activities, and especially those involving a measure of risk (motor driving, sailing, foxhunting), develop of necessity their own unique rules and conventions to help assure a safe and pleasant outcome at the end of the day for all participants. Thus, the courtesies and conventions of the hunting field, developed over the centuries, aim to produce an environment in which an exuberant sport may flourish pleasurably and safely. As each new season begins, it is never inappropriate to remind ourselves of the courtesies we owe to our landowners, Masters, staff, hounds, and fellow field members.

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