Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Foxhunting Etiquette

etiquette2

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.

John Woodcock Graves: John Peel's Boswell

john woodcock gravesJohn Woodcock Graves (1795--1886)We’re all familiar with “John Peel,” surely the most well-known foxhunting song of all time. We’re perhaps less familiar with the songwriter, John Woodcock Graves, who turns out to be a most fascinating and unpredictable character—rogue some might say—in his own way. We owe this insight into Graves' life to our Cumbrian friend, Ron Black, who sent us excerpts from A Ramblers Notebook at the English Lakes (H. D Rawnsley, 1902).

In an earlier article, Foxhunting Life describes that night in 1829 when John Woodcock Graves sat in his parlor in Caldbeck, in England’s Lake District, with John Peel. Peel was a farmer, horse dealer, and foxhunter whose hounds were highly celebrated by the local sheep farmers. From the adjoining room, Graves overheard his son's granny singing an ancient Irish melody to the child. Graves took that old melody and wrote a new set of lyrics to honor his friend, John Peel.

"I sang it to poor Peel," Graves wrote, "who smiled through a stream of tears which fell down his manly cheeks, and I well remember saying to him in a joking style, ‘By Jove, Peel, you’ll be sung when we’re both run to earth!'’

Just a few years after that cozy night, however, Graves became embroiled in a violent altercation with an employee, the aftermath of which induced him to leave England forever. His adventures were just beginning.

Further Adventures of Jack and Pete

 fell hunting.backintheday.ron hill siteFoot hunting in the Cumbrian fells / photo courtesy of Ron Black

Further adventures of our old friends Jack and Pete in Cumbria, a majestic landscape populated by some who might see themselves as the only true purists of our sport. We hope mounted foxhunters won’t take too much offense at this story. A little will be well justified, though!

With the benefit of hindsight and a few drinks, there was a certain inevitability about the whole affair. It began innocuously enough, with Jack sitting in the pub telling us that a friend had invited him out for a day with hounds. “Wot pack?” said Pete, muscling in on the conversation.

Jack named a mounted pack some miles down the motorway. Pete took it all in and thought for a moment. “They ride,” he announced. “Not getting me on a hoss, smelly bloody things.”

Jack sighed. “We can follow in the Land Rover,” he said. “They will give us a guide.”

Politics and Sport: The Berlin Wall and Drag Hunting

The state of Brandenburg in Germany (formerly a part of Soviet-controlled East Germany from 1945 to 1990) is known for its well-preserved natural environment. Ambitious preservation policies began there in the 1990s, following reunification of East Germany and West Germany. Berlin, which was also divided into East and West Zones until the fall of the Berlin wall, lies as a separate city-state within the borders of Brandenburg. Just a short twenty-five years ago the scenes in this video could not have taken place.

This video of the Brandenburger Hunting Club was recorded by a rear-facing camera attached to my wife’s helmet. The Club was founded in 1991—shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and German reunification—in Seeburg, close to the capital of Brandenburg in Potsdam. The fall of the wall actually enabled drag-hunting in the area, as the required space was simply not available in the isolated city of Berlin. Needless to say, in socialist East Germany, drag hunting and foxhunting were certainly not sports encouraged by the state.