Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

The Thrill of "Tally-Ho!"

The works of Irish sporting journalist Stanislaus Lynch were published in and around the middle of twentieth century. Earlier this month Foxhunting Life re-published a short story from his book, Echoes of the Hunting Horn. We heard from so many readers who enjoyed it, we decided to re-publish another.

One reader in the UK wrote, “I enjoyed it so much I bought the book from a second hand book shop, and it's lovely!” Another reader forwarded it to a friend in Ireland who actually remembers hunting with Lynch on a day he had a frightening fall. We’ve included her account at the end of this story.

image.olive whitmore"A wave of dappled fury" / Illustration by Olive Whitmore

There are some delightful occasions in outdoor life when immediate happenings are so engrossingly interesting that any misbehaviour of the elements is completely overlooked, and one forgets one is being slowly, but surely, soaked to the skin. A coat-collar may be turned up, the action being more mechanical than protective. The shelter of a high hedge may even be sought, but high hedges seldom exist on a bleak mountain-side, as the mountain wind rarely allows tall whitethorns to add syncopation to the weird monotony of its rhythm. One can only stay still, forget the down-pour, and watch hounds.

The Worst Hunt on Record

I’m wondering how many foxhunters will identify with this escapade. Your editor certainly does. Though, thankfully, in the two experiences I have in mind, the rascals were at least honest enough---indeed more than enthusiastic enough---to jump the fences!

echoes of the hunting horn.cropped.lynch.olive whitmoreIllustration by Olive Whitmore

I knew by the wag of his head that he was a bit-of-a-lad. When I mounted him he flung his bit-bars in truculent resentment. When I jogged off, his jaws took a vice-like hold of the bit, his head poked sideways and, if horses wore hats, his would have been very definitely "on the Kildare side." I soon discovered that it was a waste of energy to attempt to alter his head-position. His jaws were rigid, his neck inflexible, in fact, everything in front of the saddle seemed to be set in reinforced concrete. Reins are ornamental accoutrements on hobby-horses: mine were just as effective.

I had been told he was the heart and soul of a rascal, but as I have ridden, and occasionally fallen off, every conceivable brand of rascal, I felt I could forestall any equine acrobatics which he might have under consideration. His owner had given me the animal's whole character; that is, of course, assuming that there was a shred of it left to give to anyone; and I had gladly accepted the offer of a day's hunting, character or no character! Two stable companions had had a hard hunt the previous day, a third was lame and a fourth had a cough; so it was ride this old reprobate or nothing.

Strike Hound

strike hound.kleckNancy Kleck photo The fox crossed here, a car follower
Points as the foxhound pack roils roadside,
Takes the scent up onto the asphalt,
Loses the line, circles back to churn again
While one tri-color, by herself, crosses over,
Scrambles up the stone wall, squeezes
Through the boards on top, runs nose-down
Serpentines until she finds, gives tongue
On the fox’s line. The pack comes to her,
Oh yes, hot fox, they bay, go screaming off as one.
That’s the bitch I want to be.

Wendell Hawken earned her MFA in Poetry at Warren Wilson College in Swannannoa, NC. Collections of her poems include, The Luck of Being, published by The Backwaters Press, Omaha, in 2008 and The Spinal Sequence by Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky in 2013. Individual poems have appeared in literary magazines including Narrative, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, and Poet Lore.

'Dimple,' A Memory of '94

pytchley hallThe Old Pytchley Hall

This poem, published in Baily’s in 1896, is not just timely (with Christmas and the New Year), but it links directly to contemporary subjects in two of our articles below: James Barclay’s "Sporting Tour" and "Remembering the Curre on Boxing Day." It’s a wistful poem, beginning with the  mystery of whence this wonderful hound named Dimple. The mystery is resolved at the end, but no hope of ever seeing her like again is imagined. Why? Because she comes from Wales, and the type of hound anointed as stylish and desirable by the elite English foxhunting establishment of the time would never even consider a different way.

However, the very fact that this poem was written demonstrates that some foxhunters of the time, indeed even the superlative Pytchley huntsman, Young Will Goodall,* yearned for something better. But change in the form of a direct challenge to the establishment wasn’t to come until the twentieth century, and even then the process was painful for all concerned. So, here’s what can be considered a poetic prelude to both the Modern English foxhound and the American-English Crossbred foxhound of today.

The Pytchley Hounds are running hard across the Badby Vale;
They fly like swallows on the wing, altho’ it blows a gale.
’Twould make an old man young, I swear, to see so brave a sight,
As scarlet flashes past, and gleams the Pytchley collar white.**