with Horse and Hound

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.

If, on the other hand, you were a Puritan from East Anglia, you would have come to these shores for an entirely different reason—to escape religious persecution. You would have disembarked, most likely, upon the shores of New England and settled there amongst your fellow Puritans.

Most surely, you would have eschewed frivolity and idle pursuits. Your work ethic would fuel the growth of commerce, and in time your descendants would acquire great wealth. But it would take almost three centuries for them to shed their puritanical prejudices and embrace any sporting activity as an acceptable pursuit. When they did, finally, it would be they who would launch the modern era of organized foxhunting, subscription packs, and the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

As we will discover, hunting with hounds in North America has been going on since the earliest days of English colonization here. However, it developed differently from region to region, as a reflection of the immigrants themselves and their disparate backgrounds. And each culture made its own contribution to the sport we recognize today as modern mounted foxhunting.

In 1650, Lord Baltimore appointed Robert Brooke to the “Privy of the State within our Province of Maryland.” Brooke arrived from England with his wife, eight sons, two daughters, twenty-eight servants, and his hounds. This is the earliest recorded importation of any quantity of hounds to the Colonies. Brooke’s hounds no doubt hunted other game as well as fox, since packs of hounds for hunting the fox exclusively had hardly appeared in England at that early time. The Brooke hound bloodlines were carried on by his sons and their descendants and provided basic stock for American strains fielded today.

From these earliest times, hunting with hounds was carried out in various forms depending on individual circumstances—mounted on horseback, astride mules, and on foot. Family dogs and hounds were taken out at night to hunt ‘vermin’—racoons, opossums, and foxes.

The cultivation of tobacco in Virginia and Maryland ushered in an unprecedented era of prosperity in the 1700s, and the planters, who surely loved their horses, built great plantation houses, imported race horses, and rode to hounds in the formal fashion. They cleared land for cultivation and hunted wolves from horseback with hounds to rid their plantations of predators. As the wolves were driven out, it was only natural to continue their exhilarating sport by hunting the native gray fox.

One day in 1730, according to several accounts, a group of tobacco planters on Maryland’s Eastern Shore were reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ chasing red foxes in their mother country. Sadly, hunting the less inspiring native gray foxes in Maryland did not match up, so the men resolved to improve their sport. The captain of the tobacco schooner, Monocacy, which was owned by one of the planters, was instructed to bring back from Liverpool eight brace of red foxes on his next trip. The foxes arrived in due course and were liberated along Maryland’s Eastern Shore with much fanfare, merriment, race meets, and a hunt ball! Some fifty years later, descendants of those imported red foxes would initiate a revolution in hound breeding resulting in what we know today as the American Foxhound.

There were many private packs showing sport to their country neighbors prior to the Revolutionary War. One of special interest, the Castle Hill Hounds, was founded in 1742 by Dr. Thomas Walker of Albemarle County, Virginia and named for his estate, Castle Hill. After his death the pack was dispersed, and hunting ended at Castle Hill. But somewhere around 150 years later, a lineal descendant of Dr. Walker—Mrs. Allen Potts (neé Gertrude Rives)—revived the pack. By so doing, the Castle Hill Hounds became the first recognized pack to be owned and hunted by an American woman. Further, her husband, Allen Potts, was the man selected to serve as Clerk of the Great English-American Hound Match of 1905. Since Mr. Potts had to ride every day, his wife sent him off to Upperville with two of her best hunters, Bachelor and Benedict.

Another of the earliest private packs in the Colonies was that of Thomas, sixth lord Fairfax, who had inherited more than five million acres of land in Virginia, between the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers. Before moving to Virginia permanently to take control of his inheritance, Fairfax sent hounds to his cousin, George William Fairfax, who was already settled at ‘Belvoir.’

Arriving in 1746, Lord Fairfax spent some time at Belvoir managing his farms and plantations and amusing himself by hunting. In 1748, shortly before establishing his permanent residence at Greenway Court west of the Blue Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, Fairfax hired a sixteen year old family friend named George Washington to help survey his holdings. Under Fairfax’s tutelage, Washington, who eventually gained a reputation as one of the finest horsemen in Virginia, became an avid foxhunter. He wrote, “Lord Fairfax was at this time fifty-nine years old. Although a heavy man, he was an excellent horseman, and, as I was never tired of the saddle, we were much engaged in the hunting of wild foxes.”

As Washington makes clear in his diaries, after leaving Greenway Court and eventually establishing his own pack of hounds at Mount Vernon, he devoted all his spare time to foxhunting up until the eve of Independence. Speaking of Independence, it can be asserted that a foxhunter’s horseflies helped to launch the nation.

Jacob Hiltzheimer was an ardent foxhunter who owned a livery stable very near Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson himself enjoyed telling how the horseflies from a nearby livery stable annoyed the members of the Continental Congress as they reviewed his draft of the Declaration of Independence. Wearing short breeches and silk stockings, they were so much engaged in lashing at the buzzing horde with their handkerchiefs, that they were induced to promptly affix their signatures to his document.

Washington wasn’t the only Founding Father to follow hounds. James Parton, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson in the late nineteenth century, tells us that Jefferson was “as eager after a fox as Washington himself.” And Alexander Hamilton’s name was listed among the members of the St. George Hunt Club in 1783.

The first subscription pack of record in North America was the Gloucester Foxhunting Club. It was founded by a group of Philadelphia sportsmen in 1766. For those who believe that foxhunting was never a competitive sport, consider Article XIII of the Club Rules:
“The Sportsman who first touches the fox after the dogs have caught him, or who first touches the tree on which the fox may have taken shelter, if he does not make his escape therefrom, shall be entitled to the brush, for which distinguished honor he shall present one dollar to the huntsman. The person taking the brush shall take his seat at dinner on the right hand of the presiding officer of the day.”

Between the Wars (1781 to 1861)
The English gained control of New York from the Dutch in 1664 and wasted no time in introducing their sporting culture. By 1665 a racecourse was established at Hempstead.

Hard though it may be to imagine, during the period between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars, foxhunting flourished on the island of Manhattan from the Bowery to Harlem, as well as in The Bronx and into Long Island. In fact, foxhunting flourished on Manhattan and Long Island even during the Revolutionary War, as the British officers stationed there could hardly be expected to have neglected their hunting.

The winter of 1779/1780 was climactically historic. Chesapeake Bay froze in the bitter temperatures, and red foxes made their first appearance in Virginia. It is believed that they crossed the ice from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, descendants of the eight braces of English reds imported by the tobacco planters in the 1730s. The extent to which the red foxes that populate the eastern states today are descendants of those original English foxes, or are descended from the red foxes believed to have been indigenous to Canada and the northern climes, or are a combination of both is still a matter for theorizing.

From modest beginnings in Maryland, then to Virginia, the population and range of the red fox increased slowly and steadily. The English hounds that had been imported to the Colonies in earlier times were mostly of the type referred to as the old Southern Hound—slow, deliberate, trailing hounds—probably descendants of the French-Norman hounds brought to southern England after the Norman invasion. They were well suited to hunting the native gray foxes in the Colonies, but were too often at a loss trying to pressure and account for the red foxes. New outcrosses were needed, and most breeders looked to England for bloodlines to increase the speed and drive of their hounds.

Fleet hounds from the Quorn and from other fast running packs in the Shires were tried, but found wanting. Lower scenting hounds with bigger voices were needed in North America, and many sportsmen feared that the appearance of the red fox bespoke the end of foxhunting here.

mountain and MuseMountain and Muse were brought from Ireland in 1814. / Courtesy Museum of Hounds and Hunting N.A.

In 1814, Bolton Jackson, an Irish immigrant to Baltimore, brought two Irish foxhounds—Mountain and Muse, a dog and a bitch—to Maryland, which he presented to Charles Sterrett Ridgley of Oakland Manor near Ellicott City. The two Irish hounds killed foxes with ease, but they were happy to kill anything else that crossed their paths as well, including dogs. Sentenced to death by Mr. Ridgely, they were saved by Benjamin Ogle, Jr. of Belair, who pleaded that they be spared and given into his charge. This was a fortunate rescue, for these two hounds provided essential bloodlines for most of the American hound breeds we know today: Trigg, July, and Walker.
Said the American Turf Register of Mountain and Muse, “They were remarkable, as are their descendants, according to the degree of their original blood, for great speed and perseverance, extreme ardor, and for casting ahead at a loss; and in this, and their shrill chopping unmusical notes, they were distinguished from the old stock of that day; which when they came to a loss, would go back, and, dwelling, take it along, inch by inch, until they got it fairly off again, whilst these Irish hounds would cast widely, and by making their hit ahead, would keep their game at the top of his speed, and break him down in the first hour.”

The bloodlines of Mountain and Muse are widely dispersed across North America today (indeed in England as well) by virtue of the great popularity of the Hardaway Crossbred, the essential and original ingredient of which is the July foxhound. Ben Hardaway, MFH of the Midland Fox Hounds in Georgia, devoted fifty years of study, experimentation, travel, trial and error in developing his ideal foxhound. The American Turf Register’s description of the hunting style of Mountain and Muse is a nineteenth century version of Hardaway’s hunting philosophy which he attributes to his July bloodlines: “short, sharp and decisive.”

The earliest hunts still active today emerged during this period between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. The Montreal Hunt, founded as a subscription pack in 1826, is the oldest active hunt in North America. The oldest active subscription pack in the United States is the Rose Tree Foxhunting Club which was founded in Media, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia in 1859. The Piedmont Fox Hounds of Virginia, however, was established as a private pack earlier than the Rose Tree—in 1840—and holds the distinction of being the oldest active hunt in the United States.

During these years of the early 1800s, ladies were making their appearance alongside men in the hunting fields of North America. It was a controversial issue with many men. Some were honestly concerned about the safety of the ‘weaker’ sex; others were more concerned about losing the hunt in the ‘likely’ event that a damsel would come to distress and they, as gentlemen, would feel obliged to stop and render assistance; but most of the opposition to women in the hunting field no doubt had its roots in the fragile male ego. Fortunately, a sufficient population of male foxhunters were quite ready to accept “those ladies who venture on this elegant out-door exercise, made interesting not only by their ‘coat, hat, and feathers,’ but by their sparkling eyes, flushed cheeks, and temples shaded by falling ringlets….” (The College Journal of Cincinnati)

Throughout these early 1800s, foxhunting spread to the Carolinas and west to Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. Foxhunting of some sort was carried on as early as 1831 near Chicago. And in the far Southwest in the area of the Louisiana Purchase (now the state of Oklahoma), the first American military hunt club—the Fort Gibson Hunting Club—was established at Fort Gibson in 1835.

Night hunting flourished in the deep South among men of ordinary circumstances. This is not to say that men of elevated circumstances might not be found sitting by the fire as well. Many were. But any farmer could own a couple of foxhounds and get together with friends at night for an informal fox race. These night hunters, along with their countrymen that hunted informally  during daylight astride a mule or a work horse, were true hound men. Blood horses, top boots and riding britches meant little to them. They treasured good hounds, and many of the very best American bloodlines derive from their careful breeding. Enthusiasts of the American Foxhound today still maintain the bloodlines bred by Bywaters, Maupin, Trigg, Walker—all hound men of that period whose names are permanently engraved in the history of the American hound. The following description of night hunting was written in 1832:

“Foxhunting by moonlight, though not commonly practised, is said to be most delightful, on a clear still night. The game does not ‘make off,’ as in the day, nor run so far ahead of the pack; feeling perhaps a sense of greater security. Thus the trail keeps warmer, and the dogs more animated, and the cry fuller, whilst the stillness of the night leaves the music of the pack to fall upon the ear in all its volume and sweetness!

“We are too apt to suppose that to enjoy rural sports involves much expense, whereas with a few choice hounds (say only nine) between himself and a neighbor or two, a man can have real enjoyment.”

By contrast, mounted foxhunting in the southern states prior to the Civil War was carried out in luxury and style by large plantation owners with leisure time. Many planters were descended from the old sporting Colonial families, and they brought their sport to its pinnacle for the times. However, all that glamour went up in smoke with much of the southern countryside during the Civil War, and the subsequent struggle for recovery brought whatever foxhunting there was in the South back to the days of the trencher fed packs and the night hunters.

HWS300dpiHarry Worcester Smith organized the first meeting of six Masters that led to the formation of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.Organized Foxhunting (1865-1905)
The Civil War ended in 1865 with the southern economy crippled, its social fabric asunder, and its citizens poverty stricken. The planter aristocracy, formerly the standard setters for the ‘High Church’ of foxhunting, suffered especially. As late as 1883, the Sportsman’s Gazetteer and General Guide said, “Since the war the demoralized condition of many sections of the South, and the greatly impaired fortunes of the former participants in this manly sport have combined to render foxhunting well nigh impossible, and until horseback riding attains in both North and South a more national character, there is but little hope of resuscitating this delightful sport.” This was a prescient observation, for two unrelated phenomena were occurring at that very time—one in the North and one in the South—that would herald a new age for foxhunting on this continent.

henry higginson paintingA. Henry Higginson, a prolific writer, edited the first five volumes of the Foxhound Kennel Studbook of America while president of the MFHA.In the North
As the nation expanded westward, as railroads were laid, and as the population grew (bolstered by waves of immigrants from Europe), opportunities for the creation of wealth presented themselves to men of energy and vision who were willing to take risks. Boston, with its great university across the Charles River, had been preparing such men. They built enterprises that spanned the country and both oceans. Their ventures flourished through succeeding generations, and by the middle of the nineteenth century an accumulation of wealth coupled with a relaxing of the Puritanical attitude toward the frivolity of recreation led to the beginnings of organized sport. By the turn of the twentieth century, yacht clubs, polo clubs, foxhunting clubs, the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association, and the first country club were all thriving. Contemporaneous with the formation of these new institutions, Harry Worcester Smith, A. Henry Higginson, and Henry Vaughan burst upon the American foxhunting scene.

henry vaughan paintingThe urbane and diplomatic Henry Vaughan conducted the business of the MFHA from his law office in Boston from 1907 until his death in 1938.In the South
The period following the Civil War saw a number of Englishmen emigrating to Virginia. Although there were probably as many reasons as Englishmen who came, one can draw some obvious conclusions. A substantial part of an entire generation of young Virginia men did not return home from that bloody conflict, and large properties in that beautiful countryside were, and would continue to be, inherited by women. There must have been a vacuum for men, and it would certainly not be filled at that time by American men from the North.

Many of the Englishmen who came were foxhunters in their native England and were no doubt anxious to organize the sport here along traditional lines. Three of the principal organizers of the Warrenton Hunt (1887) were English emigrés, as were two of the organizers of the Deep Run Hunt (1887). Another Englishman helped form the Blue Ridge Hunt in 1888. The final step in the successful resurrection of traditional foxhunting in the English manner was to bring the northerners with their wealth and organizational abilities together with the southerners with their hunting heritage, emerging hunt clubs, and magnificent hunting landscape.

North Meets South
Harry Worcester Smith and A. Henry Higginson were always seeking the best hunting countries to which to bring their hounds for good sport. Smith, however, was entirely dissatisfied with the “unfruitful” manner in which English hounds “tried to follow the American red fox.” In 1896, Thomas Hitchcock brought a pack of American hounds to the Genesee Valley as the guest of Major W.A. Wadsworth, MFH. Smith was impressed with their ability to pursue the red fox successfully, even in bad scenting conditions. Two years later he visited the Piedmont Fox Hounds country near Upperville, Virginia as the guest of H. Rozier Dulany, MFH.

“[I]t was not until 1898 that I had a chance of seeing a pack of Virginia fox-killing [American] hounds…. I at once saw the opportunity of establishing hounds and hunting in what I felt was the best hunting country in the United States, and, if the sport which I anticipated could be shown, that it would not be long before lovers of the chase would come from the North and, choosing their domiciles, learn to love the Old Dominion with its courtesies, kindnesses and carefree ways.” (Harry Worcester Smith’s unpublished autobiography, National Sporting Library, Middleburg, Virginia)

How prophetic! Within a few years, Harry Worcester Smith had assembled his own pack of American hounds, which he called the Grafton, after the Massachusetts town where he lived. He arranged to have the Piedmont registered with the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association and, in 1904, became Master of the Piedmont, succeeding Dulany.

In a letter to Rider and Driver magazine that year, Smith extolled the virtues of the American over the English Foxhound. His letter provoked a swarm of replies by offended proponents of the English hound, but A. Henry Higginson’s published reply went a step further. Higginson offered to match his English pack, the Middlesex, against the Grafton, for “love, money, or marbles—in any fair hunting country in America.” So was born the Great English-American Hound Match of 1905, which was held in the Piedmont country.

When it was over, after six days of hunting, no foxes were killed by either pack. Smith’s American pack was awarded the trophy by the judges, who determined that his hounds did “the best work with the object of killing the fox.” Of greater significance, though, is the fact that the obscure Middleburg-Upperville area of Virginia was brought to the attention of sportsmen and women across the country. Newspapers in all the major cities carried daily reports of the match, and sporting magazines sent correspondents to cover the event.

Smith’s mastership of the Piedmont was not long-lived. The Harrimans and other wealthy hunting families from New York State’s Orange County had already discovered the incomparable hunting countries around Middleburg and The Plains, and they cared not a hoot that Smith had formally registered territory with the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association. Their Orange County hounds, under the mastership of John R. Townsend, made incursions into Piedmont’s country and drew coverts within its boundaries. Smith was outraged and protested to the Association, but the NS&HA was either unable or unwilling to become involved. Smith resigned his mastership, sold his pack to Townsend for the largest sum ever paid for a pack of foxhounds, and determined to create an Association that would be willing to take control of the sport of foxhunting and adjudicate disputes.

Smith wrote: “I determined that no other sportsman in America should be obliged to submit to the hostile, unfair and unsportsmanlike treatment that had been thrust upon me by Mr. Townsend. I at once went to work to found the Masters of Foxhounds Association which would take jurisdiction over the sport, exist for that purpose alone, and be controlled by the Masters themselves, not by the members of the Jockey Club or the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association.

w.a.wadsworth1W. Austin Wadsworth, MFH, Genesee Valley Hunt, was the first president of the MFHA.

The Modern Era (1907-2007)
In October 1906, Harry Worcester Smith mailed a notice to Masters polling them on their willingness to associate, requesting descriptions of their hunting countries, and calling the first meeting of the Masters of Foxhounds Association. On February 14, 1907, six Masters met at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel at Smith’s invitation and formed an Association generally along the lines of the English Masters of Foxhounds Association. In addition to Smith, the founders were Louis Baetjer, Westmoreland Davis, R. Penn Smith, Henry Vaughan and W. Austin Wadsworth.

Wadsworth was elected president; Smith, chairman of the Hunt Committee; and Vaughan, secretary-treasurer. The business of the MFHA was conducted in Boston, where Henry Vaughan maintained his law office. Thomas Hitchcock succeeded Wadsworth as president the following year, held the office for three years, and was succeeded by Smith, who ultimately stepped down in 1915. The stalwart constant through these early years was Henry Vaughan, MFH of the Norfolk Hunt in Massachusetts.

As secretary-treasurer, Vaughan traveled extensively for the MFHA and also for the NS&HA, of which he became vice chairman in 1918. He judged hound trials, arbitrated hunt territorial disputes, and officiated at race meets. In 1931 he became the fifth president of the MFHA, a post he held until his death in 1938. Vaughan epitomized the urbane gentleman-sportsman and was perhaps the most widely respected and warmly regarded ambassador of the sport at the time.

The terms of the first three presidents—Wadsworth, Hitchcock and Smith—were characterized by the fledgling Association’s efforts, mostly unsuccessful, to take over certain hunt-related functions from the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association.

W. Austin Wadsworth was an obvious choice to be the first president. He was, at the turn of the twentieth century, considered the “Dean of American foxhunting.” And the Genesee Valley, which he controlled, was the center of gravity of American foxhunting at the time.

After one year, Wadsworth stepped down and Thomas Hitchcock was elected president. A renowned sportsman, Hitchcock captained the United States’s first international polo team in 1886. He was the top owner-trainer of steeplechase horses of the time. He served as Master of the Meadow Brook on Long Island and the Aiken Hounds in South Carolina, where hounds still run through the beautiful Hitchcock Woods.

After three years of the Hitchcock presidency, Harry Worcester Smith was elected president. He served in that capacity for four years, until 1915, when he resigned the office. During his term he pursued two primary goals: to wrest control of (1) hunting boundaries and (2) the recognition of hunts from the NS&HA and to bring those functions under MFHA auspices. He wasn’t able to achieve either goal. Although Smith was a fearless rider, physically energetic, and intellectually creative, he was, as described by Mackay-Smith, egotistical, even offensive in manner and temperament. Perhaps his personality was an obstacle to accomplishing that which required diplomacy. However, he must be given credit for establishing the structure that eventually was able to take over those important functions and for introducing many other sporting innovations, hound shows, and related associations.

Harry Worcester Smith’s long-time adversary, A. Henry Higginson, succeeded him as president of the MFHA on February 15, 1915. By 1918 Higginson was able to convince the NS&HA to turn over the recording of hunt territory boundaries to the MFHA, but gaining control of the hunt recognition process took a bit longer—sixteen years, in fact. The NS&HA was loathe to give up the dues payed to them annually by the recognized hunts to maintain their status. It was Henry Vaughan during his term as president, who, in 1934, was able to bring the recognition of hunts under the MFHA’s purview by agreeing that a portion of the annual dues would continue to be paid to the Hunt Committee of the NH&SA, which committee would continue to handle all racing matters for the recognized hunts.

Higginson was a most prolific writer on all aspects of the sport of foxhunting. He wrote memoirs, histories, informative books and even fiction. He credits himself as the editor of the first five Foxhound Kennel Stud Books of America, surely one of the Associations most vital functions.

Higginson remained true to his admiration for the English Foxhound by refusing to register any American hounds in the first four Stud Books. In fairness, it must be acknowledged that the breeding records for American hounds were incomplete and inconsistent at the time. By comparison, English Foxhound pedigrees were available from the meticulously compiled Kennel Stud Book (England) first published there in 1866. Still, it is interesting to note that the field trial foxhunters were able to publish no less than four American Foxhound stud books over the thirty-three year period prior to 1931, the date when American hounds were finally included in the MFHA’s Stud Book (Volume V) and the year in which Higginson stepped down as president of the Association.

The American Foxhound Club: 1912
Because the MFHA, at the time, was strongly influenced by the northern hunts with their propensity for English hounds, it was left to the southern hunts to organize the effort to legitimize their American Foxhound for mounted foxhunters. In 1912, Joseph B. Thomas founded the American Foxhound Club “to encourage the systematic breeding and general use of American Foxhounds in the United States.” The AFC—precursor of today’s Foxhound Club of North America—started many of our important sanctioned hound shows, among them Bryn Mawr in 1914 and Virginia in 1934.

In 1911, Boston-born Joseph B. Thomas had bought a farm in Middleburg, Virginia—Huntland—and had begun construction of a major kennel and stable complex.  Inspired by his Massachusetts friend, Harry Worcester Smith, Thomas began to assemble his pack of foxhounds with the help of his new huntsman, Charlie Carver.  From 1911 to 1919, Thomas supplied the hounds for both the Piedmont and the Middleburg packs.  He became Master of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in 1915 and for the next four years fielded the finest pack of American foxhounds in the country.

Like Smith, however, Thomas also fell into conflict with a fellow Virginia Master—in this instance, Dan Sands, MFH of the Middleburg Hunt. As a result, Thomas resigned as Master of the Piedmont in 1919 and established Mr. Thomas’ Hounds at his summer kennels at Ashby’s Gap in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. With his superb huntsman, Charlie Carver, he began a program of hound breeding on a prodigious scale.

When, in 1931 the MFHA finally published its first Foxhound Kennel Studbook to include American Foxhounds, Thomas submitted 182 hounds, the largest number of any of the twenty-nine packs which maintained American hounds. According to entries in that and subsequent Foxhound Kennel Studbooks, hounds directly from Joseph B. Thomas were to be found in thirty-two organized packs of the time.

Joseph B. Thomas’s influence on the American foxhound was enormous. His foundation bloodlines, which he bought and bred, were mostly old Virginia and Bywaters strains. He acquired hounds of the Brooke strain from Maryland and later out-crossed to Trigg hounds, both of which undoubtedly infused the bloodlines of Mountain and Muse, the famous and highly prepotent Irish hounds imported to Maryland in 1814. Today, the progeny of Thomas’s breeding still thrive in the finest packs of American and Crossbred hounds in the country.

Henry Vaughan succeeded Higginson as president in 1931. Although friendly with both predecessors—Harry Worcester Smith and A. Henry Higginson—Vaughan possessed a diplomatic demeanor, a way of getting on with people, the likes of which neither of his friends could claim.

Smith founded the MFHA, and Higginson initiated publication of the stud books and, during his term as president, wrested control of the recording of hunt boundaries from the NS&HA. But Smith kept his hound breeding to himself, and Higginson is not known to have ever attended an MFHA meeting. It was Vaughan as secretary-treasurer through the MFHA’s first twenty-four years, then as president for the next seven years, who provided the continuity for these hard-won successes; negotiated with the NS&HA to finally bring control of the hunt recognition process under the MFHA; and left behind a respected and thriving Association.

Of Henry Vaughan, Richard E. Danielson, editor and publisher of The Sportsman Magazine, wrote: “A Virginia Master once said to me, ‘I think of Henry Vaughan as typifying the best kind of New England gentleman.’ I answered, ‘Henry is the best kind of New England gentleman, but he isn’t typical. There is only one Henry Vaughan,’”

Posted May 16, 2013

Alexander Mackay-Smith, The American Foxhound: 1747-1967, The American Foxhound Club, 1968
Alexander Mackay-Smith, Masters of Foxhounds, Masters of Foxhounds Association, 1980
Joseph B. Thomas, Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages, The Derrydale Press, 1938
J. Blan van Urk, The Story of American Foxhunting, The Derrydale Press, 1940
Norman Fine, The Norfolk Hunt: One Hundred Years of Sport, Millwood House, Ltd., 1995
Richard E. Danielson in The Washington Times, September 12, 1934
MFHA Minutes of Directors Meeting