with Horse and Hound

The Foxhound: A Pearl of Considerable Price

Norm Fine’s Blog

norman.karen.farnleyKaren L. Myers photoThe State of Kentucky values the foxhound exceedingly. Indeed, this high regard was emphatically established in 1948 case law by the old Kentucky Court of Appeals which, at the time, was the highest court in the state.

Foxhounds were hunting across Tennessee Valley Authority property one day in 1946 when, during a chase, one hound fell into an open well and drowned. An individual named Stratton, presumably the owner of the hound, sued the TVA for damages (Tennessee Valley Authority v. Stratton, 306 Ky. 753, 209 S.W.2d 318 (1948)).

In recognizing that Stratton suffered damages, the court said most poetically, “In the great fraternity of fox hunters, a man’s hound is a pearl of considerable price.”

The court went on to write an effusive tribute to the joys of foxhunting.

“A common man may freely enjoy without tax or ticket the open air symphony of the melodious harmony of a pack of hounds on a cool, clear night and therein find that life is good if not somewhat glorious. He often recognizes the distinct voice of his own dog and takes pardonable pride in the leadership of that dog running out there ahead of all the rest. He does not need psychic power to know that ‘Old Queenie’ is really leading the whole outfit. The hound that runs the bushytail with enthusiasm is just a little lower in the fox hunter’s affections than his children. And although habitual fox hunters toil but little and spin but spasmodically, yet Solomon in his palmiest days never had more of the wealth of real happiness than one of these fox hunters, a wealth to which the hound makes a mighty contribution.”

In dealing with the question of negligence, however, the court was less helpful to Stratton.

“We rather reluctantly meet our duty of saying that Stratton proved no negligence on the part of TVA,” said the court.

Answering the question that might arise in one’s mind as to the reason for their reluctance in expressing that decision, they went on to explain, “This reluctance springs from the fox hunting proclivities of some members of our court. Some of us are also fox hunters.”

Posted March 28, 2012
Re-published September 22, 2017

Steven Price, FHL‘s resident specialist in the joys of the English language and member of our Panel of Experts, found this case for us. He’s also a Yale Law School graduate, though he keeps that close to the vest.