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.

The Hunt Button Mystery

m.b.h.button1It began with a subscriber’s question. Vicki Reeves wrote, “A friend inherited some hunt buttons which have a hunting horn on them and "M.B.H. 1881." How can I find out what hunt they represent or any additional information about the buttons?”

Foxhunting Life was able to identify the buttons as those of the Meadow Brook Hunt (NY). Once that was established, the owner of the buttons, Connie Rhodes West from Tampa, Florida was able to surmise the likely provenance of the buttons back through family history. Her story was so interesting, and the chronicle of the fabled Meadow Brook Hunt is so extravagant, we thought our readers would enjoy a trip back to those bygone days.

Ruler's Message

red screes 1A thick mist descended upon Red ScreesAs reported by The Westmorland Gazette, April 14, 1900

On Monday the meeting of the Coniston Foxhounds was at Grove farm. Hounds got upon a drag close to the farm and carried it up Martindale Pasture, by Hind Cove, to Troutbeck Hundreds. Here a fox was unkennelled, which went across Woundale Bottoms, crossed the Kirkstone Road, and climbed up Brow End Allotment. Climbing along the top to Woundale Head, he made a sharp turn to the left, and came down behind Kirkstone House. He now crossed the road at the Ullswater side of the Pass, near the Kirk Stones, and scrambled up the sides of Red Screes.

Old Huntland, Joe Thomas Photos Discovered

kennels5A youthful Joseph B. Thomas at Huntland / Courtesy of Karen L. MyersJoseph B. Thomas, MFH came to Middleburg, Virginia via Boston and New York in the early part of the twentieth century and built Huntland—house, stables, and kennels.  Thomas was a founding member of the American Foxhound Club, Master of the Piedmont Fox Hounds, and author of Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages, the first comprehensive book on hunting with hounds ever written by an American.

Thomas became the largest breeder of foxhounds for mounted packs in North America and helped to define the American foxhound breed. He has been a subject of great interest to all serious scholars of North American foxhunting, and much has been written about him. However, available images of Thomas (and his famous huntsman Charlie Carver) to grace all that published text have been sparse.

Now, just in time for the present owner and restorer of Huntland, Dr. Betsee Parker, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of her famous home, we have a treasure trove of recently discovered old photographs of Thomas, Carver, hounds, and kennels.