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Fairfield County Hounds

fairfieldcounty

Roxbury and Bridgewater, Connecticut

Website: www.fairfieldcountyhounds.com


lisa peterson.crop.pmd.freudy(l-r) Sally Teelin, author Lisa Peterson, and huntsman John Ference with the Penn-Marydel foxhounds of the Fairfield County Hunt, circa 1978 / Freudy photo

November brings forth fall, foliage, and foxhunting. The first weekend of the month is the beginning of the formal season for many hunts with its blessing of hounds, hunt breakfasts, and equestrian fashion pageantry that splashes the color of autumnal leaves with scarlet, black, and brown flashes as horses, hounds, and exuberant riders gallop along.

Foxhunting Life published a lovely article by Epp Wilson last month about the Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), its pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds, and its young huntsman Codie Hayes. I had the pleasure of hunting with Golden’s Bridge as a guest a few times in the last decade and thoroughly enjoyed watching the hounds work. I also recall as a teenager hunting with the Fairfield County Hounds in Newtown, Connecticut with their pack that included Penn-Marydels.

According to a Chronicle of the Horse magazine article in 2005, “The consensus among huntsmen with exclusively Penn-Marydel foxhound packs is that they’re unbeatable for their nose, voice, and ease of hunting.” Not only that, but because they are so agreeable to hunt, as one huntsman said, “They sort of hunt themselves and don’t require a lot of additional work.”

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Hounds

lisa peterson.crop.pmd.freudy(l-r) Sally Teelin, author Lisa Peterson, and huntsman John Ference with the Penn-Marydel foxhounds of the Fairfield County Hunt, circa 1978 / Freudy photo

November brings forth fall, foliage, and foxhunting. The first weekend of the month is the beginning of the formal season for many hunts with its blessing of hounds, hunt breakfasts, and equestrian fashion pageantry that splashes the color of autumnal leaves with scarlet, black, and brown flashes as horses, hounds, and exuberant riders gallop along.

Foxhunting Life published a lovely article by Epp Wilson last month about the Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), its pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds, and its young huntsman Codie Hayes. I had the pleasure of hunting with Golden’s Bridge as a guest a few times in the last decade and thoroughly enjoyed watching the hounds work. I also recall as a teenager hunting with the Fairfield County Hounds in Newtown, Connecticut with their pack that included Penn-Marydels.

According to a Chronicle of the Horse magazine article in 2005, “The consensus among huntsmen with exclusively Penn-Marydel foxhound packs is that they’re unbeatable for their nose, voice, and ease of hunting.” Not only that, but because they are so agreeable to hunt, as one huntsman said, “They sort of hunt themselves and don’t require a lot of additional work.”

The physical appearance and conformation of the Penn-Marydel has seen changes over the years. Hunts forced to move due to development may find themselves in a new and different type of hunting country. Or coyotes have moved into the hunting country, displacing the foxes. Hounds have had to adapt to more or less rugged terrains and longer and more robust runs after coyotes than those of the wily fox who will start and stop, run in circles, and try to “outfox” a pack of hounds. And depending where you are foxhunting across the country, the pack may be comprised of larger or smaller hounds with longer or shorter legs to get where they need to go, either tightly bunched or perhaps well spread out as they hunt.

aiken trailer2Penn-Marydel foxhound, Aiken Trailer 2012 /

A Historic Hound
In the world of foxhunting, you have your English hounds and your American hounds, and then you can also have your Crossbred hounds (English-American foxhound crosses). But all hounds in America originated from the Southern hound brought from England in the 1650s to the new world. Even George Washington was an avid fox hunter and bred his own packs with detailed breeding and pedigree records.

Over the centuries, different types of American hounds evolved through the work of dedicated hound breeders. These breeders were trying to produce hounds more suitable to their own unique hunting countries, and also to better cope with the imported red fox in the nineteenth century which was faster than the native gray fox or the spreading deer population in the last century. They infused bloodlines of other hound types from other places such as France and Ireland, and refined the types through repeated generations of matings by selecting sires and dams that passed on the traits they sought. The pure Penn-Marydel, in fact, has hound bloodlines from both England and France.

At some point, a type of hound bred in Pennsylvania and on the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Delaware was singled out for its ease of handling in the kennel and its fine performance in the field. By the 1930s, sportsmen started to organize these hounds into a specific breed of American hound called the Penn-MaryDel, a combination of the three states’ names from which they hailed. In 1934, the Penn-Marydel Association was formed to preserve the bloodlines of this foxhound and to keep a stud book.

Today, the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is the keeper of the stud book of all hounds registered with MFHA-recognized hunts across North America. The Foxhound Kennel Studbook has been published annually by the MFHA since 1973.* Penn-Marydels were included, but listed as American hounds, not as a distinct breed. In the world of foxhunting, hounds are often crossbred with other types of hounds, such as an English to an American, or Penn-Marydel to an English, and many times just for one generation in order to infuse a needed trait into the kennel bloodlines. For example, if a hunt has moved to a new hunting country that has more open fields and more coyote, they may want to breed toward hounds with longer legs and larger lung capacity to run for longer hours than what the old country demanded of them in dense woods.

In the early 2000s, Penn-Marydel breeders worked with the MFHA to determine what rules were needed to consider a purebred Penn-Marydel to be registered with the Association as a separate breed. At the time all Penn-Marydels were considered American hounds if bred to an American hound. If a Penn-Marydel was bred to a Crossbred or an English hound, the offspring were categorized as Crossbreds.

The original Penn-Marydel Stud Book goes back to 1933. To be a registered Penn-Marydel, a hound needs to trace back five generations of registered breeding in that studbook. In other words, to be considered a registered Penn-Marydel, the hound must have five clean generations of Penn-Marydel breeding without an outcross. Starting in 2009, the MFHA began to register Penn-Marydels as a separate breed under its own name rather than just list them as American Hounds.

va14.callarBlack and tan Penn-Marydel, Golden's Bridge Phoenix 2012 (out of Andrews Bridge Powder 2007), was Grand Champion Foxhound at the 2014 Virginia Foxhound Show. (l-r) Joan Jones, President, Virginia Foxhound Club, huntsman Ciaran Murphy, Golden's Bridge Foxhounds  /  Liz Callar photoPenn-Marydel hounds come in the traditional hound tri-colors of brown, black, and white, and some come with ‘ticking’ or little flecks of darker color sprinkled through the white hairs. But some foxhunters prefer a strain of just black and tan Penn-Marydels, most famously hunting with the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (PA).

According to the Chronicle article in 2005, “The Andrews Bridge hounds are most recognizable for their distinctive color — black and tan. The color harks back to the pack’s origins. The Andrews Bridge Foxhounds were started by Sam Riddle, who was more known for owning the famed race horse Man o’ War. He began the pack at his Glen Riddle Farm in Ocean City, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, at the end of the nineteenth century. When Riddle died in 1951, the pack went to his nephew, Walter Jeffords, Sr. He wanted to distinguish the pack from other packs, so he decided to breed and select on black-and-tans. [Robert] Crompton, MFH since 1968, kept the color.”

For another Foxhunting Life article about the Penn-Marydel, click on “What Is a Penn-Marydel?” by Jody Murtagh, ex-MFH. More articles on the breed may be found by using the Search Function (upper left).
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* The MFHA began publishing the Studbook in 1908, the year after the Association was established, but not annually; it was updated every few years or so until 1973 when John Glass became Clerk and Keeper of the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book, It has been published annually since.

Posted November 3, 2017

Click to visit Lisa Peterson’s Blog, Lisa Unleashed for more about history, horses, dogs, and hounds. Lisa is the owner of Barn Girl Media, a public relations and communications consultancy company in Newtown, Connecticut. She earned her junior colors with the Fairfield County Hounds (CT). She can be reached via e-mail.

rhoda hopkins2Rhoda Hopkins, one of the first female professional huntsmen* in North America, died peacefully on June 18, 2017. She was eighty-eight.

Rhoda hunted the Fairfield County Hounds (CT) for fifteen years, from 1979 to 1994. Her pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds provided excellent sport in the field, and excelled at the hound shows, winning the Pack Class at Bryn Mawr for seven consecutive seasons. Hers were the first Penn-Marydels I ever hunted behind, and I remember galloping as fast to keep up as I have behind any other pack of foxhounds since.

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In juxtaposition to these times of fast and affordable air travel to and from England and Ireland for hunting holidays, here’s a look back to a 1924 account of a leisurely (and dramatic) father-daughter sea voyage—their first—to go foxhunting on the other side. It was also a different era for world events, as readers will note.

Author Charles D. Lanier was MFH of the Fairfield County Hounds (later the Fairfield and Westchester Hounds) from 1915 to 1921. His seventeen-year-old daughter, referred to as “B,” was Becky Lanier, later Becky Sharp, MB of the Nantucket Beagles, and still later Joint-MB of the Nantucket-Treweryn Beagles, who, along with her husband Joint-MB David “Bun” Sharp passed away in 1987.

becky lanierBecky Lanier, 1920

What follows is a condensed version of Chapter 1, “Outward Bound," from Charles Lanier's We Go Foxhunting Abroad: A First Venture with the Irish Banks and English Downs published in 1924. Subsequent chapters in condensed form will appear through the remaining summer months.

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stu grod2.julie stuart segerJulie Stuart Seger photoStuart Grod—popular field member of the Fairfield County Hounds (CT)—has retired after forty-three consecutive seasons hunting in the first flight. A retirement party was held in Stu’s honor at the hunt’s clubhouse on November 22, 2014, where well-known food and travel author Michael Stern read a poem he composed for the occasion.

"Build a bridge with your hands on the mane;"
"Trot smooth as you head for the jump;"
"Go light when your hands hold the reins;"
"And don't crowd on the lead horse's rump:"

Just some of Stu's tips I've acquired
Since I started to ride with you folks.
I'll miss you up there, you strange country squire
With your bright eyes, your wisdom, and jokes.

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